Summary of the Women Back to Business Evaluation 2017

The Swiss federal and cantonal governments invest billions of francs annually in the tertiary education of women. Since 2008, more women have acquired their education at a university or university of applied sciences than men. The frequent incompatibility of career and family in Switzerland, however, forces many women with a university degree to take a break from work. After this, they are often employed in part-time work and under their qualifications.
On the occasion of the tenth anniversity of the management programme “Women Back to Business” (WBB), the University of St. Gallen conducted an evaluation among WBB programme graduates. The survey showed that three quarters of all graduates have succeeded in returning to work or repositioning themselves professionally. The WBB programme thus represents a successful ongoing effort to help reduce the skills shortage in the Swiss labour market.

There are more than 50’000 women in Switzerland who have a university degree but have left the workforce due to family responsibilities or other reasons. Many of these women express having difficulties returning to work, despite the skills shortage in many sectors of the economy. Women who seek to reenter the workforce, reposition themselves professionally, or take on more responsibility with a higher workload can reach these goals with the help of the right form of continuing education.

Goal achieved: Career Relaunch or Career Transition
The Women Back to Business programme has been helping women relaunch their careers or take on a new professional challenge for ten years now. The management programme provides participants with an update on the lastest concepts and models in the most important fields of management (e.g. strategy, HR, financial controlling, marketing). Major benefits of the WBB programme compared with other types of continuing education include the individual and group coaching sessions, the job search and interview training workshops as well as the internships, which ensure hands-on learning and a direct link to daily business practices. Renowned organisations from the private and public sector greatly value and support the WBB programme by providing scholarships, internships and/or topics for final papers.

The recent evaluation of the WBB programme provides evidence of its effectiveness. Three-fourths of all programme graduates have successfully returned to the workforce or attained a more challenging position. Sixty percent of these women achieved this goal within the first six months after completing the programme (see figure 1). Three quarters of the graduates rated the programme’s contribution to their successful career relaunch or career transition as “very high” or “rather high”.

Time it took to relaunch career or reposition professionally
Figure 1: Time it took after completing the WBB programme to successfully relaunch career or reposition professionally


Finally a job that matches my qualifications
Women who have shifted down a gear in their careers are usually no longer considered as candidates for promotions. If they’ve taken a career break, they often return to a job below their qualifications. Eighty percent of our survey participants indicated that their motive for returning to work or repositioning themselves professionally was either to seek a new professional challenge, to advance their careers, or to seek personal fulfilment. After completing the WBB programme, 80% of the successful returners and 96% of those who repositioned themselves professionally found a job that matched their qualifications.

Women Back to Business as a career booster
It is interesting that over the past ten years, the proportion of programme participants who never fully left the workforce, but rather aimed to reposition themselves professionally, has more than doubled, rising up to 40%. Before the programme, many of these women had been working in small part-time jobs and under their qualifications. After completing the programme, more than twice as many were in leadership positions than before. The percentage of women with permanent contracts also increased from 40% before the programme up to 70% after graduation.

Increased self-worth and professional orientation are also important
Besides helping women achieve their goal of returning to the workforce, the programme has additional benefits as well. Survey participants were asked to identify the three greatest personal benefits they received from the programme. For every sixth participant, this was an increased sense of professional self-worth. Every eighth participant profited most from the professional orientation she received. For every ninth person, the greatest benefit was learning about new management models and concepts.

Large companies, small- and medium-sized enterprises and public administrations are attractive employers
It is interesting to see where programme participants were employed before and after completing the WBB programme. Before starting the programme, a majority of the women who were already employed were working for large companies with over 250 employees. After graduation, many of them switched to small- and medium-sized enterprises. It is also interesting to see that many are now employed in the public sector. Furthermore, there has been a strong increase in the number of self-employed graduates. Before taking a career break or starting the WBB programme, not a single participant was self-employed. After the programme, every tenth graduate took on the challenge of founding a start-up.

On the whole, the situation for returners and for women seeking to reposition themselves professionally has improved significantly since completing the WBB programme. Most graduates have found a position that matches their qualifications. More women are now in leadership positions and have a permanent contract than before. It is also gratifying to see the high number of graduates who have become their own boss since completing the programme. Survey participants who participated in a personal interview explained that it wasn’t the individual modules by themselves which were helpful, but rather the programme as a complete package. The unique combination of theory and practical application through internships and coaching sessions sets the WBB programme apart from other management seminars, making it ideally designed to help women return to work or take their next career step.

Executive School Programmes:
Open Programmes

Women Back to Business

The management programme for women on the move.

Evaluation Methods
The WBB programme was evaluated in 2017 using an online-survey among graduates of the WBB programmes from 2008-2016. Personal interviews were also conducted with five WBB graduates and with the programme head.

Find out more about the Women Back to Business programme: (German) (English)
For more information, please contact:
Executive School of Management, Technology & Law
Patricia Widmer
Programme Head “Women Back to Business”
Tel. 041 71 224 75 35

Prof. Dr. Gudrun Sander
Academic Director


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