Obstacles in the application of equality between men and women

- EN - DE- FR- IT
 (Image: Pixabay CC0)
(Image: Pixabay CC0)

On July 1, 1996, the law on equality became part of the Swiss Constitution. 18 years later, the balance sheet shows that many improvements are still to be made, especially in the world of work.

Recent plans to motivate companies to implement equality measures are heavily focused on the needs of employers. This is shown in the article "Economic profit instead of equality standards. Advantages and risks of the economic profit discourse in Swiss gender equality policy in working life" by Dr. Lucia M. Lucia M. Lanfranconi, freshly published in the Swiss Journal of Sociology. "In recent years, representatives of Swiss equality policy have been talking more about the use of such projects by companies than about the principle of equality enshrined in the law. The current promotion programs are optional for companies and always oriented by the usefulness for employers", explains Lucia Lanfranconi. This orientation towards the economical and optional use of these projects is applied by the representatives of equality policy mainly to guarantee their access to companies. Indeed, in Switzerland, there are almost no pressure tactics or compulsory mechanisms to enforce the equality law within companies.

Opportunities and risks

For her doctoral thesis, Lucia M. Lanfranconi analyzed documents and documents concerning equality policy (from 1996 to 2011), as well as an exemplary promotion project of the current organization of equality policy and its application in an SME. The sociologist comes to the conclusion that this strategic focus on economic profit presents both opportunities and risks: On the one hand, companies are all the more motivated to participate in equality support programs and to implement operational measures, but on the other hand, the optional nature of the project gives them legitimacy for not acting. Since equality measures are supposed to offer companies a quick and cost-effective solution, companies are often reluctant to implement regulations that do not directly guarantee such a gain - such as equal pay adjustments. In addition, the study shows that it is often more rational for employers to implement measures that will benefit the already more advantaged gender group. For example, in the framework of an equality support project, paternity leave could be granted, while at the same time hiring or promotion practices that discriminate against women are not questioned in the framework of the project, explains Lucia Lanfranconi.

Overcoming the barriers of equality policy

In her article, the sociologist proposes solutions for moving closer to equality at work: "Employees should have more say in deciding what measures to take in voluntary equality programs. In addition, it is important that mandatory measures are introduced for all employees. Lucia Lanfranconi also recommends the establishment of structures at the Swiss political level and the allocation of resources to make mandatory programs possible. "In Switzerland, the lack of measures regarding gender equality in the workplace is still very important. A recent OECD study shows that internationally, Switzerland is clearly lagging behind in terms of gender pay differentials, especially in terms of the magnitude of these differentials and the changes achieved over time", underlines Lucia M. Lanfranconi.

The article, published on July 1, 2014 in a special issue of the Swiss Journal of Sociology, dedicated to the topic of gender equality, represents a part of the cumulative doctoral dissertation that Lucia M. Lanfranconi completed at the Universities of Freiburg and Hagen (DE ).