Strong US/Swiss partnership to further Gender Equity

A bilateral conference held by the US Ambassador to Switzerland in Bern, celebrating the 100th anniversary of International Women's Day, brought together around 50 women from the 2 countries to examine "The Next Hundred Years of Women's Leadership".

Switzerland has come a long way since giving women the right to vote in 1971: Last year was historic in that women for the first time comprised the majority in the Swiss Federal Council, the country’s governing body.

This inspired Megan Beyer, the wife of US Ambassador to Switzerland Don Beyer and a former journalist, to bring together 50 women from both Sister Republics, from the worlds of politics, business and science for the one-day event, “The Next Hundred Years of Women’s Leadership,” which was co-sponsored by Swiss Re.

Among the participants were Doris Leuthard, Swiss Minister of Transport, Energy and Communication, Betty King, US ambassador to the United Nations, Betsy Myers, leadership expert and former advisor to Presidents Obama and Clinton, key women from the White House administration and female CEOs in Switzerland such as Yvonne Lang Ketterer of Zurich Life and Monique Bourquin Arnold of Unilever.

If female representation in Swiss politics is a great example, this is not yet the case in business and academia, as Leuthard stated.

So why are leading women still so scarce in these areas?

As Swiss Re’s Global Head of Diversity and Inclusion, Nia Joynson-Romanzina not only has a mandate, but also a clear vision on diversity and inclusion in corporations.

"It is key to have the commitment from the CEO and top management, which is the case at Swiss Re" says Joynson-Romanzina.

Joynson-Romanzina insists that “by changing leadership styles, you start addressing the culture in which people are working, and we start moving towards a more inclusive culture”.

She further noted that “in addition companies need to take concrete steps to change their DNA with diversity-inducing policies and systems”.

The conference’s aspiration was not just to debate and exchange lessons learnt, but also to grasp the momentum and use the experiences and achievements in one sister republic to share with the other.

Another conference goal was to create lasting partnerships. US Secretary of State Hillary Clinton addressed the participants via video, summoning them to “use this conference to create the mechanisms, connections and partnerships to help advance the participation and presence of women in both our countries”.

Published 11 March 2011

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