Administrative boards are becoming more female; 27% of all supervisory board members of SMI companies are already women – and that is rising

Assessment and Benchmarking
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五月 19, 2019
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Assessment and Benchmarking
The increasingly significant female factor is rejuvenating the supervisory bodies.

NZZam Sonntag

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​The NZZam Sonntag article, “Administrative boards are becoming more female; 27% of all supervisory board members of SMI companies are already women – and that is rising,” featured the firm's research, quoting Matthias Oberholzer. The article is excerpted below. 

April 9 was a big day for Ines Pöschel: Pharmaceutical giant Novartis spun off its eye care business under the company name of Alcon and took it public on the stock exchange. As an administrative board member, Ines Pöschel was jointly responsible for the transaction. The attorney (law firm of Kellerhals Carrard) sits in the ten-member Alcon supervisory board together with two other women. The company that sells, among other things, contact lenses and has annual sales of $ 7 billion, is one of the 20 largest Swiss companies included in the Swiss Market Index (SMI). Ines Pöschel, born in 1969, is a member of the new generation of aspiring administrative board members: In May 2018, she was elected as the first woman to the banking board of the Cantonal Bank of Graubünden. For several years she has also been active in the administrative boards of the construction firm Implenia and of the advertising group Wirz Partner Holding. 

She is not alone in this respect: In this spring, 31% of newly-elected administrative board members were female, as shown by a recent survey by Russell Reynolds Associates, an international personnel consultant and management recruiter. Overall, 55 of the 206 SMI administrative board seats are now occupied by women, equal to a rate of 27%. If the upward trend continues, the share of women in the supervision of the most important Swiss companies should soon reach 30%. “Switzerland demonstrates it: It can also happen without a statutory share”, states Matthias Oberholzer, the Russell Reynolds country manager for Switzerland. In Germany, a 30% share of women was attained in the supervisory boards of the 30 largest German companies, but only following a statutory obligation in this respect. 

At any rate, 2019 will go down as the first year in Switzerland in which, for the first time, all SMI companies have at least one woman in their administrative board. Sometimes there are also more: The Zurich Insurance Group has a 45% share of women in its administrative board, the Swatch Group has a 40% share. 

The increasingly significant female factor is rejuvenating the supervisory bodies: More than half of all administrative board members are already over 60 years old. On average, women are only 52 years of age when they start their administrative board duties. On the other hand, with an average term of 7 there are there for less time than the men (9 years), as shown by the Russell Reynolds study, which is soon to be published. 

A particular characteristic of the supervisory bodies that watch over the most important Swiss firms is their international composition: 57% of all members of the administrative boards of SMI firms do not have a Swiss passport. The most powerful fraction among the foreigners is the Americans and Canadians with 19%, followed by the Germans with a 7% share (their share would be higher if the dual citizens were included).The openness with respect to different nationalities reflects the global orientation of most large Swiss businesses. A completely different picture is seen in Germany: The share of foreigners in the supervisory boards of the DAX 30 companies is just 30%. 

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