Not long ago, Swiss companies relied on workforces that were as homogeneous as possible. They were convinced that this would increase employee performance and efficiency.
After the millennium, a change of perspective took place in which large corporations regarded diversity management as an instrument to further equality and a good reputation. Today, diversity is considered essential for modern companies to have a sustainable organisational structure that also allows them to even increase economic benefits.
Studies have shown that mixed groups are more innovative and make better decisions than homogeneous groups because experience, competences and different perspectives complement each other, and individual strengths are better used. Furthermore, companies with a diverse workforce can score points on the customer side. The individual needs of customers can be better met, as customers and target groups are becoming more and more individualised. This enables companies to significantly improve their image and competitiveness. Above all, it is important to integrate diversity management directly into the corporate development. The organisation should reflect the diversity of employees, especially their ideas and individual business practices. Leadership can be increased by questioning one's own routines and working on one's own attitudes and behaviour patterns. Mere guidelines are not sufficient here if the highest instances of the company do not pay attention to this.
Switzerland is a culturally diverse country, where the coexistence of four different national languages and cultures in a confined space and with population groups of different origins has become a matter of course. At an early stage, it was prompted to enshrine the principle of cultural diversity in the constitution and to take it into account in daily life. It is therefore all the more astonishing that Swiss companies do not seem to succeed in bringing women into management positions, although the Schilling-Report, in which the 250 most important Swiss companies participated, shows that the proportion of women in executive boards rose from 4 percent in 2006 to 8 percent in 2017, while it has risen from 10 percent to 17 percent in supervisory boards since 2010.
Even though the proportion of women in the management has increased, it is not sufficient to achieve the target set by the Swiss Federal Council of 30 percent in the board of directors and 20 percent in the executive board, which was also reflected in a draft law on the new Swiss stock corporation law. Compared to other Western European countries, Switzerland performs poorly, which is why it is important that Switzerland can keep up with the leaders and defend its position as one of the most important global economic locations.
Why Switzerland is not a front runner can be explained by the fact that women prefer to work part-time. As Swiss companies with a few exemptions do not offer childcare services, as is the case for example in Scandinavian countries, mothers are forced not to pursue a career as a manager from the outset. Although women are indispensable on the board, as their contribution from different perspectives leads to more innovative decisions in the company, and they are better able to cope with change and stress, more flexible working hours and the provision of childcare are needed. This does not necessarily increase the proportion of women, but it can be an incentive to reconcile work and family life. In order to achieve a higher proportion of women, a cultural change is certainly needed, which not only the companies have to experience, but also the society. As managers, men may have a head start in terms of enjoy of trust from the outset, regardless of their performance, whereas women still have to fight for recognition.
Conversely, a statutory quota for women is not the way to go forward for several reasons. The revision of stock corporation law does not provide for any sanctions. If a company does not achieve the required quotas, it only has to explain why they could not be achieved. In addition, according to the so-called comply-or-explain approach in the draft law on the new Swiss stock corporation law, only measures for improvement need to be presented. It is precisely this approach that is problematic in terms of actual equality, as it is questionable whether this will really change anything in practice. Nonetheless, women's qualifications and suitability for management positions are crucial, not because the quota requires a woman.
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