Female Bankers Have It Tough

Credit Suisse, UBS, women, diversity

Urs Rohner, Chairman of Credit Suisse, wrote the introduction to a new study authored by the Swiss bank on gender diversity. The study shows Swiss firms are behind in almost all measures for promoting women to key positions.


As Credit Suisse's experts have found out, nowhere is the air thinner for female executive talent in Switzerland than in finance (see graphic below).

A mere 6.7 percent of top management jobs at Swiss companies are held by women, according to the study – the international average is roughly double. 

Switzerland may be the world's most competitive economy, but it ranks behind emerging markets like Malaysia or South Africa on female board representation, where the average is 13.4 percent.

Poor Female Representation

This isn't going to change anytime soon, Credit Suisse's experts forecast. Swiss firms are comparable to their European peers for female CEOs, but drop off dramatically at upper management levels like finance or operating chief, according to the study.

Diversity Grafik 500

Meager Pipeline

In other words, the pipeline of future leaders is far too meager to offer boards – usually overwhelmingly male – a sensible selection for top roles.

This finding is not a pleasant one for Credit Suisse's Urs Rohner, who has been a vocal proponent of female board representation, appointing a Harvard professor for gender policy to the Swiss bank's board.

Credit Suisse has long been an advocate of getting qualified women back into operative roles as well, with former CEO Brady Dougan initiating a program to attract back women who had taken a longer break from their career.

Lara Warner, head of compliance and regulatory affairs for Switzerland's second-largest bank, is a product of this program. Credit Suisse has however lost several prominent female bankers in recent months.

String of Departures

High-profile exits include new markets chief Pamela Thomas-Graham, finance executive Charlotte Jones, branding specialist Ramona Boston, communications chief Clarissa Haller and operations executive Kirsty Roth in recent months.

Warner remains the sole female top executive; Credit Suisse has three female board directors including Bohnet. The bank has also attracted two top female talents from UBS, including Patricia Enslow in Asia.

The bank's own survey comes to the conclusion that better female representation ultimately leads to higher share price valuation.

At crosstown rival UBS, Ann Godbehere, Beatrice Weder di Mauro and Isabelle Romy sit on the board. The bank has two top executives in Asia chief Kathryn Shih and human resources head Sabine Keller-Busse.

Smaller Banks Prevail

CEO and chairman of both big banks are currently men, and no female banker has made it within striking distance of either top job at Credit Suisse or UBS.

Despite UBS' and Credit Suisse's efforts to attract female talent, smaller banks have been more successful in this regard. Prominent examples are Marianne Wildi, who is boss of local lender Hypothekarbank Lenzburg, and Fiona Frick, who runs Geneva-based asset manager Unigestion.

At private bank Edmond de Rothschild, also based in Geneva, three of seven top management spots are held by women.

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