BERN, SWITZERLAND – Women in the US celebrated Equal Pay Day 17 April, six weeks after their Swiss counterparts, Megan Beyer, chair of the US-Swiss Sister Republics – Building Bridges conference says in a mailing to the group. The group of women leaders from the two countries who met in Bern and Geneva 7 March marked the day when Swiss women finally earned the same amount men earned the previous year.
“Comparing a simple thing like the differing dates of Equal Pay Day brings into a sharper focus the issue of where both of our countries stand on this road to gender equality,” writes Beyer. “That is the beauty of this bi-lateral project. By comparing our two countries, we come to understand our own nation better.
By March 7th, women in Switzerland had finally earned the same amount men had earned the previous year. In America, women still needed to work another six weeks to match the earnings of their male counterparts. It is no wonder the World Economic Forum Global Gender Gap Index puts America at 17 and Switzerland at 10.”
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Beyer, whose husband is the US ambassador to Switzerland, Donald Beyer, points to new steps being taken in both countries to address the problem of pay discrimination and inequity. The US government has created new apps “that offer salary data which add transparency and give women a distinct advantage in salary negotiation.” The White House recently released a report, Keeping America’s Women Moving Forward, The Key to an Economy Built to Last, on “policies, programmes and legislative initiatives under the Obama Administration that are supporting women and girls at all stages of their lives.”
Swiss voters could well find that they are voting on corporate equal pay quotas, with Lisa Feldman of Annabelle Magazine and Sandra Jean of Le Matin establishing a task force on quota legislation to collect signatures for a popular initiative that would put the issue on the ballot in Switzerland.
A “call to action” by the Swiss chapter of Corporate Women Directors will be the focus of a meeting this summer to review several initiatives to get more women on Swiss boards. Co-founder of the group, KPMG, noted in 2011 that “A recently published study by Heidrick & Struggles on corporate governance at major European corporations shows that Swiss companies, where women comprise 11 percent of boards of directors, still have a lot of catching up to do. Whilst only marginally short of the European average of 12 percent, they are still far behind the leaders Norway (33 percent), Sweden (29 percent) and Finland (25 percent).”
The conference targeted five areas as the focus for bi-lateral efforts:
- Raising awareness and communicating the message that we need more mentoring and sponsoring to get the next generation of women into leadership positions
- Defining standard elements of certification programs such as: salary, recruitment and promotion, training, and flexible wor
- Providing more affordable quality child care options for working mothers
- Promoting flexible work models by changing the corporate culture to accept pay for function instead of pay for hours
- Encouraging women to be strategic in building relation- ships both inside and outside the workplace.