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US Embassy Releases George Washington University Global Women's Initiative Study, "Gender Equality in Employment: Policies and Practices in Switzerland and the U.S."
Cover of report by George Washington University

Report released by George Washington University Global Women's Initiative

photo by Rich Fisher, US Embassy Bern

Dr. Michelle Kelso, Assistant Professor of Human Services, Sociology and International Affaris at GW University presented the report's findings.

March 6, 2012..... Bern, SwitzerlandThe US Embassy and George Washington University released a comparative analysis of gender workplace issues affecting women in Switzerland and the United States at a press conference in Bern Tuesday.The report includes original research from a poll of over 1,000 Swiss workers.

The report, "Gender Equality in Employment: Policies and Practices in Switzerland and the U.S.", was prepared by the George Washington University Global Women's Initiative. The exhaustive research includes a comparative analysis of attitudes, culture and best practices concerning women in the workforce. "The work of GW went far beyond our expectations and provides a clear picture of strengths and challenges for women in each country." said U.S. Ambassador to Switzerland Donald Beyer.The report includes original research from a poll of 1100 higher level swiss workers. Some results of the poll include:  Swiss workers polled do not support gender quotas for placing women on corporate boardsMen opposed these quotas by 89%. Women opposed by 54%. 59% of women polled wanted parental leave to be extended beyond the current 14 weeks. 59% of men opposed the extention. 78% of women workers said that equal work does not mean equal pay in Switzerland 57% of men believe that women and men do not receive equal pay for equal work.

The release of the report came in advance of the second “Sister Republics: Building Bridges” bilateral conference on March 7, 2012, bringing women leaders in both countries together to find practical solutions to common issues. The event was made possible by generous support from Swiss companies SwissRe, Novartis, Zurich Financial, Nagra, and ABB.

The United States and Switzerland are often referred to as “Sister Republics” because they collaborated with each other as they developed bicameral legislatures, constitutional documents and the systems of states and cantons.

As U.S. Ambassador Donald S. Beyer Jr. stated, “When the founding fathers initiated the “Sister Republics” relationship between our two countries, they did not really take the sisters into account. This bilateral effort, bringing together women from the White House, the Federal Council, and major corporations in both our countries can put our collaboration to creating opportunities for women in the future- and that’s good for both our economies.”

Megan Beyer, a journalist, chairs the project. She was a leader of “Women for Obama” in 2008, and for five years was a regular panelist on the national PBS public affairs program, To the Contrary, addressing issues affecting women. “The issues we discussed on To The Contrary are the same issues working women struggle with here in Switzerland,” she noted, ”primarily a stubborn glass ceiling and problems balancing work and family.”

Among this year’s attendees were President Barack Obama’s most recent Chief Domestic Policy Advisor, Melody Barnes; the Chief of Staff of the U.S. Department of Commerce, Ellen Moran; the just retired Under Secretary of State and former CEO of Discovery Television Network Judith McHale; New York Times Best Selling Author Mary Holt; Pulitzer-nominated New York Times Journalist Ann Crittenden and former White House Director of Communications Anita Dunn.

Swiss attendees included Federal Chancellor Corina Casanova; Isabelle Welton, CEO of IBM Switzerland Ltd.; Monika Walser, CEO of Freitag lab AG; Lisa Feldmann, Editor-in-Chief of Annabelle Magazine; President of MMG Christina Müller-Möhl; Nicole Schwab of the Gender Equality Project; and Swiss Television’s Christine Maier.