65 — women in manage­ment positions

According to the Jahrbuch der Hilfswerke 2019, 65 percent of small organisations (with operating expenditure of less than 1 million Swiss francs) have a woman at their helm. Is this a welcome development? Or is it a typical image of gender distribution at managerial level? The Stiftungsreport 2019 and the Jahrbuch der Hilfswerke 2019, published in early December, both pay particular attention to gender distribution across leadership positions within charities and NGOs. It’s an excellent opportunity for a moment of reflection.

2019 was all about women. The second natio­nal women’s strike took place in mid-June for the first time since 1991. All in all, several hund­red thousand people took to the streets of cities and villa­ges across the coun­try. Their demands were clear: equal pay and equal oppor­tu­nity for women, and a grea­ter say within compa­nies, orga­ni­sa­ti­ons and poli­tics. It was one of the biggest, most impres­sive demon­stra­ti­ons in Switzerland’s history, and the time is ripe for it. As a result, the people of Switz­er­land put their words into action: the natio­nal re-elec­tions saw the percen­tage of women in the federal parlia­ment jump from 28.5 percent to more than 40 percent. 

And what about the world of work?

Accord­ing to the Schil­lin­gre­port 2019, the number of women in senior manage­ment posi­ti­ons at Swiss compa­nies is slowly but surely heading upwards. The propor­tion of women on admi­ni­stra­tive boards amoun­ted to 25.6 percent in 2018, twice as high as ten years before. As previously, less than ten percent of execu­tive mana­gers are women.

An inverse relationship 

The Stif­tungs­re­port 2019 shows that the propor­tion of women in chari­ties’ execu­tive bodies reflects other areas of society. Twenty-eight percent of trus­tees are women, and of 12,893 commit­tee members, only 20.4 percent are female. The percen­tage of women on boards of trus­tees is not dissi­mi­lar to the percen­tage in the natio­nal assem­bly prior to the elec­tions. Howe­ver, the situa­tion looks rather diffe­rent in terms of chari­ties’ opera­tio­nal manage­ment. Around 15 percent of chari­ties include their manage­ment posi­ti­ons in the commer­cial regi­ster, with 34.6 percent of them being held by women. 

The current Jahr­buch der Hilfs­werke paints the same picture as the Stif­tungs­re­port. On a stra­te­gic level, 65 percent of chari­ties have a chair­man, not a chair­wo­man, with the size of opera­ting expen­dit­ure not play­ing a role. In terms of opera­tio­nal manage­ment, opera­ting expen­dit­ure certainly does have an impact: the bigger an orga­ni­sa­tion is, the more male execu­ti­ves it has. The propor­tion of female execu­ti­ves at orga­ni­sa­ti­ons with opera­ting expen­dit­ure of less than a million Swiss francs is 65 percent, but for large orga­ni­sa­ti­ons with opera­ting expen­dit­ure of more than ten million Swiss francs, this figure remains at a measly 24 percent. The figu­res are balan­ced across all 405 insti­tu­ti­ons surveyed. 

Awareness is growing, and trends in the propor­tion of women are now being exami­ned across all manage­ment bodies. The image depic­ted by these surveys is crys­tal clear: we are heading towards gender equality, but we are still some way off achie­ving it. Women are substan­ti­ally under-repre­sen­ted in presti­gious, well-paid posi­ti­ons – both in the busi­ness world and in the chari­ta­ble sector. 

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