17. September 2018

Who will lead Swiss business in the future? Results of the Advance & HSG Gender Intelligence Report presented at the 2nd Diversity & Inclusion Conference

Studies show that companies with diverse teams are more successful. This is one reason why the organisation “Advance Women in Swiss Business” is committed to substantially raising the proportion of women in leadership positions in Switzerland. The Competence Centre for Diversity and Inclusion (CCDI) of the University of St. Gallen is supporting Advance in the pursuit of this goal by annually measuring the progress of Advance member companies and comparing this with the results of the St. Gallen Diversity Benchmarking. The latest findings were presented at the 2nd St. Gallen Diversity & Inclusion Conference of the University of St. Gallen on 11 September 2018. Where do employers in Switzerland stand and are there any detectable trends?

For the 2018 Advance & HSG Gender Intelligence Report, 38 Advance member companies were compared with 12 companies from the St. Gallen Diversity Benchmarking. The data from 238’700 employees (71’600 of those in management) were analysed along the entire HR-lifecycle, including recruitment, departures and promotions. The resulting report is the most comprehensive in the area of Diversity & Inclusion nationwide.

Trend 1: Men are still overrepresented in management positions.

In numerous organisations that participated in the study, the proportion of men in management greater than that of women. The proportion of women in management is often significantly lower than in the workforce overall, even within companies with a higher proportion of women overall. The higher the management level, the fewer the women.

In many organisations, average age of women is lower than of men, especially in management. There are a few organisations where over 40% of the men in management are over 50 years of age. This will mean a high number of managers entering retirement over the next 10-15 years. Companies will risk knowledge loss and will need to fill a larger number of (management) positions within a short amount of time. However, this situation also presents an opportunity to increase the proportion of women in management positions.

Trend 2: More women are being recruited, to an extent also for management positions.

Few organisations collect data from job applications, meaning that very little information is available about the kind of applications companies receive for management positions. However, such data could help identify whether or not enough women are applying for open positions and may indicate which (potential) employee groups find the company attractive. The results of such an analysis can then be translated into various measures. Is the statement “We don’t get enough applications (for management positions) from women” really true?

Apparently there are enough high-quality applications from women, since many companies are recruiting proportionately more women than are already employed in the organisation. Recruitment for management positions is a bit more ambiguous, however. While companies receive sufficient applications from women, recruitment decisions do not clearly favor women.

Trend 3: Turnover rates among men and women are converging; women are returning to work after maternity leave.

The turnover rate is still slightly higher for women than for men in most organisations. The positive results from recruitment are therefore being (partially) lost. The silver lining: In recent years, the turnover rates among men and women have been converging. On average, the turnover rate among women in management is about the same as that of men. Another favorable development is that between 85% and 90% of women who go on maternity leave return to work afterwards. This is a clearly observable positive trend.

Trend 4: Men are favored for promotions; part-time work and leadership positions usually don’t mix; part-time work is a phenomenon in German-speaking countries.

In most companies, men are given preferential treatment for promotions: The proportion of men being promoted is higher than their representation in companies overall. Additionally, employees who work full-time (100%) are favored over those who work nearly part-time (80-99%). A study conducted on behalf of Advance in 2016 (Sander, Georgakakis, van Dellen, Maier, 2016) showed that employment percentage substantially influences one’s career prospects. The average employment percentage is therefore also worth mentioning here.

In most of the organisations, the average employment percentage among women is significantly lower than that of men. Comparing the average employment percentage by nationality places Swiss women at the bottom of the list. There are few differences between men with Swiss or other nationalities. In an international context, part-time work can be viewed as a phenomenon of the German-speaking region. However, the differences in employment percentage between men and women in management is lower than in the overall workforce. It appears to be common for men and women in leadership positions to work full time or nearly full-time.

Analysing the average employment percentage by age group reveals that women still frequently lower their employment percentage at an age when they (probably) start a family. In this age group (31-50 years), the average employment percentage of women is clearly too low for a (higher) management position or leadership position. This may indicate a traditional gender role allocation. Furthermore, women lose valuable years of work experience through part-time work, which further lowers their chances of a career (Dorn, 2018).

Even though most companies maintain that part-time work is possible for people in leadership positions, the study’s results provide little support for this assertion.  Career paths diverge when women work part-time and men work full-time, leading to promotions in which full-time employees (100%) are favored over nearly full-time employees (80-99%). Employment percentages of women and men must be harmonized in order to remove the main career obstacles for women. The above mentioned study (Sander, Georgakakis, van Dellen, Maier, 2016) further shows that flexible working modules do not affect one’s career prospects. Is replacing part-time work with (full-time) flexible working models a viable solution for the future?

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Dorn, David (2018). Frauenlöhne und Männerlöhne? In: Finanz und Wirtschaft, 14.07.2018.

Sander, Gudrun / Hartmann, Ines / Petropaki, Alkistis (2018), Advance & HSG Gender Intelligence Report, September 2018.

Sander, Gudrun/Georgakakis, Dimitrios/van Dellen, Bianca/Maier, Melissa (2016): The Penalty of Part-time Work, Final Report, April 2016.


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