The Glass Ceiling
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While women account for 42% of the active population, only 18% have made it to middle ranking executive, and a meager 1 to 3% have successfully integrated into top management. Margit Osterloh, a teacher of managerial economics in Switzerland, argues: “Women who want to reach the top come up against a glass ceiling. They can see the top through the ceiling, but it stops them painfully every time.” Barbara Kux, executive director of Ford Europe, doesn’t agree, “The one who wants to see a glass ceiling will see it… I have never seen it.” More than half of the students at Swiss universities are women, but only 5.7% of all professors, lecturers and researchers, highly respected jobs in Switzerland, are women. There is certain gender segregation at the level of career choice. Real difficulties crop up when the time comes to have a child. Some decide to put it off until later, others retire in the risky hope they can come back later.

Prejudices have not yet disappeared. In many companies, there are people who think that a mother cannot take on responsibilities, because she might have to leave at anytime to care for her child. When a young woman is hired, it is not unusual for her contract to stipulate that she must “work full time” during a specified time, meaning that she must refrain from having children during that period. Women who work part time are almost automatically excluded from positions with executive responsibilities.

The few female managing directors of banks in Geneva are Americans, not Swiss. Understandably, many women prefer to work freelance and to create their own businesses. Since 1991, the number of women working freelance rose constantly, especially in the fields of business consulting, human resources and career development.

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