Access to leadership positions, salary... Gender inequality persists

March 2021

Whilst Swiss executives and leaders feel generally satisfied with their companies' inclusion and diversity policies, the same cannot be said for women who - according to specialist recruitment agency Robert Walters - continue to feel that it is more difficult for them to advance professionally.

Inclusion and diversity in organisations: What do executives think? 

According to the recruitment agency Robert Walters, 74% of Swiss executives think that their company promotes inclusion and diversity. Mirroring this, two thirds (61%) of professionals stated that their employer’s initiatives help them feel included.

However, differences in the perception of inclusion between women and men still exist. In fact, more women feel in doubt about their position in the company; with over a third (37%) stating that their opinion does not count as much as that of other employees. In comparison, only 26% of men believe this.

Career: Can we talk about equal opportunities? 

When it comes to career development, women do not feel equal to men. In fact, 75% of female professionals believe that as a woman, it is more difficult to be promoted, compared to only 23% of men. Furthermore, only 45% of men believe that women are underrepresented in management positions in Switzerland, compared to 85% of women.

"The reform of corporate law has introduced several regulations in favour of equality in companies, including the feminisation of the boards and management of large companies. Although these measures are not coercive, it is important that these governing bodies lead by example and show the way towards gender equality. This concerns not only the position of women, but also the diversity of society as a whole," says Christian Atkinson, Director Robert Walters Switzerland.

There is consensus on the causes of this underrepresentation in leadership positions. For women, the traditional patriarchal corporate culture by its very nature favours the promotion of men to leadership positions (66%) and does not actively promote inclusion and diversity (58%). Women also see a direct link to the difficulty of returning to work after motherhood (39%). Men are aware of this problem and are even more convinced that the under-representation of women is due to the difficulty of returning from maternity leave (48%).

"Women are often given the option to switch to part-time work after maternity leave. While this flexibility is good for reconciling family and work, it should not be a barrier to their career progression. Since the beginning of 2021, paternity leave of two weeks has been the norm in Switzerland; companies that are particularly concerned about the welfare of their employees even offer paternity leave of up to four weeks and ensure that this leave is actually taken. These changes in labour law are gradually moving Switzerland towards greater gender equality, even if the gap is still significant compared to other countries," emphasises Guillaume Blanchin, Director of Robert Walters Geneva.

Salaries: More than one woman in two dissatisfied

When it comes to pay, women are generally less satisfied than men. In fact, 58% of women surveyed feel that their salary does not properly reflect their experience and skills, compared to 38% of men.

When it comes to salary negotiations, men and women have more or less the same demands: 33% of men say they have already asked for an increase of more than 11%, compared to 28% of women. It also shows that of the 37% of managers who have never negotiated their salary, more women than men have not raised the issue of pay increases (19% compared to 6%).


Infographic methodology: Survey of around 250 Swiss executives by Robert Walters Switzerland in February and March 2021.

About Robert Walters Switzerland

As the world’s leading specialist recruitment consultancy, Robert Walters Switzerland specialise in recruiting top and middle management executives in the following business fields: Accounting & Finance, Banking & Financial Services, Legal, Technology, Procurement & Supply chain, Professional Services & Consulting. The firm has also developed an Interim Management activity to lead organisations’ urgent and strategic transformations (change management, crisis, internationalisation…). Robert Walters have had specialised teams in Switzerland for more than 10 years, spread out over Zurich and Geneva.

About Robert Walters Switzerland's commitment to gender equality

Robert Walters Switzerland is one of the first signatories of the Advance Diversity Charter. This charta reflects our commitment towards gender equality in business and a workplace environment that supports a fair and balanced approach to hiring, remunerating, promoting and retaining female talent. Read more

PR contact

Séréna Bréot
t: +33 (0)1 40 67 48 95

Our diversity and inclusion survey results 


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