Switzerland is joining the European campaign to dilute traditional male dominance of senior jobs. In 2003 Norway became the first country to impose a gender quota, requiring at least 40% of public limited company board members to be women. Other countries, including France, Spain, the Netherlands and Germany, have since followed suit. In December 2015 the Swiss federal government announced that it intends to propose to Parliament non-binding quotas for women on company boards and top executive posts at major listed companies.

According to the government, women will occupy 30% of the seats on boards of directors and 20% of top management jobs. The government stopped short of imposing the binding quotas used in other European countries. Companies failing to meet the target will have to explain themselves and outline their plans to comply. The law will have a significant effect in Switzerland, where few women occupy top posts in leading companies such as UBS, Novartis and ABB. Efforts to use purely voluntary targets have largely failed. As the situation at executive board level differs from that for boards of directors, because members require more specific specialist and industry knowledge, the government has watered down initial intentions of 30% quotas both at board and top management level.

According to a 2015 study by the Swiss Employers Association, almost two-thirds of listed companies in Switzerland have no female board members and women occupy just 16% of executive board seats among the 20 biggest listed companies in the country.

For further information on this topic please contact Thomas Rihm at Lutz Partner Rechtsanwälte by telephone (+41 44 368 50 50) or email (thomas.rihm@lutz-partner.ch). The Lutz Partner website can be accessed at www.lutz-partner.ch.

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