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Elections 2019 - The biggest hurdles for women in Swiss politics

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In Switzerland there are more women than men who are entitled to vote. Nevertheless, they are in the minority in political offices - from the cantonal chambers to the Federal Council. Why? A search for clues.

Author: Angelo Zehr, Tybalt Félix (RTS)

What are the hurdles for women to succeed in politics? A search for traces on all levels of political life.

Members and Delegates

If a woman wants to make a career in politics, she is confronted with one thing above all: a majority of men. It starts with the simplest political participation, membership. There are around 93,000 women and around 138,000 men among the members of the major parties. However, there are big differences. The BDP and SVP have twice as many male members as female members. The CVP and SP, on the other hand, report around 40 percent women, the FDP does not disclose any figures. Only the greens are approaching balance.

The situation is similar at the delegate level. Because many parties do not count how many of their delegates are women, RTS and SRF analyzed photos of delegate assemblies and plotted the gender proportions. They give a clear picture that women are clearly in the minority there too - especially among right-of-center parties.

Alice Glauser, SVP National Councilor for the Canton of Vaud, finds this problematic: "The structures were created by men for men." The fact that there are so few women in her party definitely has an impact on the politics of the SVP: "The topics of the right-wing parties are not always those that interest women most." According to Glauser, there are issues from which the party does not move away and which are "set in stone" - even if the women advocate it.

Cantonal Council and National Council

If a woman decides to run for political office, she faces further hurdles. While women make up 53 percent of the electorate, they are still in the minority on most electoral lists. At the level of the cantonal elections, on average, twice as many men as women stand for election. This quota has hardly changed in the last four legislative periods. Until this year. In several cantons that held elections in 2019, both the number of female candidates and those who were elected increased: in Zurich, Ticino and Lucerne.

Martine Docourt, SP, is one of those who took the plunge into politics. She was elected to the City Council and then to the Cantonal Council of Neuchâtel. Now she is running for the Council of States. When she switched to politics, she discovered "a glass ceiling, just like in the professional world." Sexist comments and difficulties in reconciling family, work and politics have shaped her career. These obstacles would have spurred her on, says Docourt, but she is not surprised that "it is often women who stop when a child comes." Is motherhood an additional hurdle? Many women in the National Council confirm this.

Despite the difficulties in reconciling family and politics: at least at the federal level, 2019 could be a year of change. While the proportion of women among the candidates for the National Council has stagnated at around 30 percent for more than 28 years, women now make up around 40 percent of the candidates.

Discover how the proportion of women among candidates has changed over the past 40 years for each party and canton. Select a canton to highlight it:

In some cantons, however, the imbalance remains considerable. In Valais, St. Gallen and Schwyz, the 40 percent mark is still a long way from being reached. The SVP still proposes one candidate for every three candidates. For its part, the FDP is the party that has made the greatest progress in increasing the proportion of women in these elections - from 31 to 37 percent.

Candidates, elected and list places

There are, however, major differences between the proportion of women running and how many women were elected in the end. In 2015, candidates from the SVP, the Greens and the SP were almost as successful as their male counterparts. In the FDP, however, women were much less popular than men: with 31 percent of the candidates who were women, only 21 percent of those elected were female after the election.

In 1971 Switzerland introduced the right to vote for women. From then on, women ran for parliament, but they weren't elected for a long time. For 40 years there was a gap between the proportion of candidates and the proportion of those elected. However, this gap seems to be disappearing steadily. In 2015, the proportion of women elected was only slightly lower than the proportion of women running for office.

A possible explanation for why proportionally fewer women win than were nominated could be the position on the electoral lists. In most cantons, these can be determined by the parties themselves. In 2015, more than two thirds of the top positions on the lists in the left and center parties were occupied by men. At the SVP it was almost three quarters.

That will also change in the 2019 elections. With the exception of the BDP, all parties are positioning more women at the top of their lists. The increase is again particularly strong for the FDP, which is approaching a tie at this level. All of this could point to a historic increase in the proportion of women. Despite all the hurdles.

Broadcast reference: SRF3, September 17, 2019, 7:00 a.m.

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  • Comment from Shane O'Neill (Diddleydoo)
    Mrs. Albis,

    It is not the same men who make the laws and are then disadvantaged.

    How many women are discriminated against by women? More than 50% of the voters are female. Should we then not care that these women are not elected because they are apparently not elected by women themselves?
    Agree agree to the comment
  • Comment from Arthur Pünter (puenti)
    Despite constant repetition, this feminism and equality hype, which is constantly spread in the media, is slowly assuming inflationary traits.
    Agree agree to the comment
  • Commentary by Roger Ebischer (RO.Ebi)
    Does it just seem like that to me, or is it mainly topics where women are disadvantaged or in the minority? We men should demand a quota in which the same number of men are shown and addressed. , Systematic discrimination by the state in the form of compulsory military service, retirement age, less paternity leave, little to no say in the upbringing after a divorce and and? Then there are the social disadvantages.
    Agree agree to the comment
    1. answer from reto huber (Mr.Yellow)
      Not only does it seem like that to them, it is exactly like that. So feminism is just equal to men disadvantage plus women favor.

      And you still forgot:
      Widower's pension
      Permission of the woman in the paternity test
      No fathers day
      little or no funding for boys and men
      Men pay 2/3 of the social benefits but only receive 1/3

      Certainly there wouldn't be much more. SRF should deal with this issue and inform the population about these grievances.
      Agree agree to the comment
    2. answer from Lilian Albis (...)
      Of course there are also corners where men are disadvantaged. There is also to be abolished. But first, as listed in the article, (if you are talking about the state) it is mainly men themselves who make these laws. A good example is longer paternity leave, which Parliament has just decided (and which, in my opinion, is still too short). Father's Day is the first Sunday in June. If they don't celebrate that, women in politics can't be prosecuted for it.
      Agree agree to the comment
    3. Show answers

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