Women still earn less than their male colleagues. Two leading businesswomen take a stand today, on Equal Pay Day – and point out how things could be different.

Corina Widmer and Claudine Esseiva take a stand on today’s Equal Pay Day.

22 February is Equal Pay Day. The date is no accident: It marks how long women in Switzerland work for free, on average, while men have been earning pay for equivalent work since 1 January.

The exact date of Equal Pay Day is calculated every two years based on the latest earning structure survey conducted by the Swiss Federal Statistical Office (FSO). In 2020, 22 February stands for the 14.4 percent pay difference between the sexes that cannot be explained by objective criteria.

Unconstitutional

“This difference in pay is illegal and runs counter to the principle of equality enshrined in the Swiss constitution,” says Claudine Esseiva, President of Business and Professional Women Switzerland. This year marks the eleventh time the association has organized the Equal Pay Day activities.

Esseiva, a city council member from Bern representing the Free Democratic Party (FDP), is the driving force behind the national day of action, whose goal is to raise awareness of inequality of pay between the sexes. “It’s important to point out this inequality and talk about it,” she says, noting that this is the only way to improve things in the future.

In the top league

It doesn’t have to be that way, as Coca‑Cola HBC Switzerland already shows. According to Logib, the self-test tool offered by the Swiss Federal Office for Gender Equality, the pay differential between female and male employees at the company is 0.8 percent. “That puts us in the top league when it comes to equal pay,” says Corina Widmer, head of HR and member of the executive management at Coca‑Cola HBC Switzerland.

What’s behind these good results? “We set clear goals for ourselves and pursue them with determination. Our pay policies are based on objective measurement criteria, and sex is irrelevant,” Widmer explains. “Coca‑Cola HBC Switzerland firmly believes in equal pay for equal work.” The next step is to close the few gaps that remain, she says.

Business-focused family policy

“Policymakers have taken an important first step toward better pay equality by introducing obligatory earnings analysis. But to improve the compatibility of family and working life in Switzerland, further action is needed,” Esseiva says.  In many cases, women have to choose between career and family because childcare is too expensive or too complicated to arrange. And that means the Swiss economy is missing out on huge potential for skilled workers: “That’s not in the interests of a functional national economy.” The community needs to offer help with this, for example in the form of more and better care options, Esseiva explains.

Widmer agrees that policymakers have an obligation to meet: “We need overall conditions that level the playing field in the labor market. We need business-focused family policy.” To Widmer, though, it is also up to companies to create these opportunities: “By offering all employees, regardless of sex or gender, the same opportunities and viewing diversity and inclusion as integral elements of their corporate culture.”

 

Claudine Esseiva (FDP) is a city council member in Bern and President of Business and Professional Women Switzerland (BPW Switzerland), the organization behind Equal Pay Day. She served as Secretary-General of FDP Women Switzerland (FDP-Frauen Schweiz) from 2008 until 2017. She is committed to ensuring better compatibility between family and working life.

Corina Widmer has been the HR director and a member of the executive management at Coca‑Cola HBC Switzerland since July 2019. She holds certification as an HR specialist and a diploma in HR management and has worked in the human resources field since 2004. Widmer calls on policymakers to establish better overall conditions to offer the same career opportunities to both sexes.