WOMEN’S STRIKE OF JUNE 2019 – what does it mean to us?

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As a young mother I participated in that first women’s strike in 1991, my first ‘public’ commitment to equality between women and men. In 2019, another strike in Switzerland focuses on women’s demands for equality. Equal pay is a major topic. It affects women as much as their families during their working lives, but also during retirement.

Sadly, the situation has not changed much. In 2012, the wage gap between women and men in Switzerland was 21.3%. It fell to 19.5% in 2014 to rise yet again to 19.6% in 2016. (1) Successive governments have put equal pay on their agendas, with or without binding measures– with no penalty for non-compliance. Ask yourself – what would be the impact of speed control on the roads without a penalty for violators?

In 2005, I created EQUAL-SALARY, to address the issue. Participating employers receive certification for paying women and men equally. At the time, it was a pioneering idea which seemed almost Utopian. The EQUAL-SALARY Foundation, which received funding from the Confederation, has actively contributed to the cause of equal pay. By engaging companies and other organizations – small and large, private or public, Swiss and international – to turn words into action, the Foundation helps companies demonstrate they have equal pay between women and men, and we are making a difference.

In 10 years, more than 100 certification procedures have been conducted, including a world first, a multinational company awarded the “EQUAL-SALARY GLOBALLY CERTIFIED” label in March 2019. In total, more than 130,000 employees in more than 90 countries benefit from these certifications. These companies decided not to wait until they were forced by law to ensure equal pay between men and women. They preferred to take a pioneering position in their sectors, allowing them to attract and retain talent, to position themselves positively in their markets, to reassure donors/investors, to meet the standards of good governance or to fulfil public tenders’ conditions.

Taking measures for equal pay between men and women is the basis of an employer’s respect for its employees, a demonstration of commitment by management to its workforce. To position themselves as responsible and accountable, organisations must now choose how they wish to continue. It is not enough to say, ‘we believe in the practice of equal pay”. It is necessary to prove disparities have been transparently resolved. Our vision of the future? Reaching at least one million employees around the world within five years to raise global awareness in companies and other stakeholders, and thus end once and for all this shameful debate. As Minister Alain Berset said of Switzerland in 2018: “wage inequality is one of the biggest scandals (…) of our country “.  The women’s strike affects us all. (2)

Véronique Goy Veenhuys , Founder & CEO of the EQUAL-SALARY Foundation

See the French and German versions on our website : www.equalsalary.org

(1) Source : Federal Statistical Office, press release from January 31, 2019. (2) Source : lematin.ch

Picture: Marche de la grève des femmes à Genève, 14 juin 2019 06.jpg. (2019, June 19). Wikimedia Commons, the free media repository.