Women in banking: The Swiss sector tends towards more equality

The fall of 2008, the stock market crash, the global financial crisis and the slump that ensued around the globe, we now know, all of this was largely the result of a banking environment dominated by men. A sector long infused by this explosive cocktail of masculine intimacy and excess confidence. “If Lehman Brothers had been called Lehman Sisters, the world would be very different today,” said former IMF director Christine Lagarde about the giant American establishment that triggered the disastrous fall of dominoes on Wall Street.

More than fifteen years after this cataclysm, the world of finance has understood the message. Many indicators show that it is finally becoming more feminized and that progress is already visible, even if the road ahead remains immense. Because although around half of the workforce of European banks is today made up of women, they nevertheless become increasingly rare as we climb the organizational chart.

Management positions are still 77% male, points out the latest DBRS Morningstar report published at the end of 2023, which examines the figures from 62 banks on the continent. Only four of them dared to put a woman in charge. But the study notes a slight progression on the side of boards of directors, 38% of whose members are female, compared to 36% in 2021.

In Switzerland, these advances are also palpable. Banking establishments are demonstrating a desire to change the situation with concrete programs along four major axes. Panorama.

1. Feminize more senior positions

UBS, which swallowed Credit Suisse last year, has set itself the objective, by the end of 2025, of achieving a 30% share of women in executive and management positions. Currently, a third of the members of the Board of Directors and Executive Board of UBS are women. As for Cantonal Banks, BCV has for example set itself the objective of reaching 25% women at senior management level by 2030.

Their proportion has already increased recently: at the end of 2023, 17% of senior executives were women, two percentage points more than three years earlier. For PostFinance, this objective is achieved in the board of directors, which is 57% female. In other management bodies, on the other hand, the bank recognizes that “gaps remain to be filled”: men are twice as numerous in the steering committee, and four times as many among senior and middle managers.

2. Facilitate work-life balance

In 2023, BCV says it has “significantly increased the duration of leave granted in connection with the arrival of a child”. Until 2022, the maximum maternity leave was 20 weeks paid at 100%. Maternity leave granted by the bank can reach 30 weeks for employees depending on seniority, as at UBS.

PostFinance also offers maternity leave beyond the legal minimum, with an additional four weeks. Several banks also offer the possibility of adjusting working time and working conditions, with part-time or temporary positions. job sharingincluding for executives, as well as home office which can sometimes reach up to 80% of the total time, as at Raiffeisen.

BCV and UBS have set up an integration program aimed particularly at women who have had an interruption in their career or wish to reorient themselves in the banking field. Called “Join us” in the first and “Career Comeback” in the second, this type of system allows you to make a new start in business. At UBS, 90% of people who have benefited from it since 2016 have been women.

3. Measure the evolution of equal pay

Several Swiss banks have implemented tools aimed at analyzing the evolution of salary inequalities between men and women within the company. PostFinance thus conducts “internal analyzes of equal pay in order to guarantee it”. With a score of -3.1%, the result of the 2023 analysis is “within the statistical tolerance threshold of (+) 5%”, underlines the bank. It also communicates the starting salary range “in most job competitions”.

Raiffeisen has, for its part, been a partner for several years of Advance, the largest network for gender equality in Switzerland. By signing the Advance Diversity Charter, the establishment affirms that effective equality between all genders “is a major concern for it”. BCV is promoting the Fair-ON-Pay+ label received in 2021. Valid for four years, this certification “confirms respect for equal pay between the Bank's employees over the long term”.

4. Develop mentoring networks

To help women develop their careers, establishments rely on support and networking. UBS, for example, has the “Women and Allies” mentoring and sponsorship program. Since 2020, the PLURI'elles Network, launched by a group of employees, aims to encourage the personal and professional development of women at BCV as well as to “value and promote female profiles within the Bank”.

And as part of the Raiffeisen mentoring program, managers and the entire management team “support many female employees as mentors in their professional development”.

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