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2021 Switzerland Spencer Stuart Board Index

2021 Snapshot

 26.9 %

of SMI board directors are women

 11 %

of executive committee members are women


chairs are women, equivalent to 8.9% of the total number of SMI chairs

 42 %

of boards reached Switzerland’s 30% gender representation target

Women on boards

Female directors hold 26.9% of seats across the boards of SMI companies. In 2020, Switzerland’s National Council approved an amendment to board gender targets (30% women) and executive committees (20% women) for publicly listed companies with more than 250 employees. As we approach the target being met, we are seeing a flattening of the trend towards rising female representation across both board and executive committee appointments.

Female representation (2015–2021)

Fewer than half (42%) of the companies in the sample have reached the target for female representation in the boardroom, but all of them have at least one female director. GAM Holdings is the only company where female directors outnumber their male counterparts, although both chair and vice-chair positions are occupied by men.

Only three companies—Swiss Prime Site, Lonza Group, and Zurich Insurance Group—have met both board and executive committee targets.

Executive committees

The number of executive committees (ExCos) with more than 20% of female representation has increased to nine companies (compared to six in our 2019 edition). However, all-male ExCos remain common, with nearly half the sample (44%) lacking a single female member.

Background of women on ExCos
Roles of women on ExCos
Our perspective

While there was a steady increase in women appointed to board roles between 2015-2020, progress has stalled with just under 27% of board seats at listed companies held by women. Although 42% of boards have now met the government’s target of 30% female directors,  we believe that all companies will be able to surpass this target over the next few years. Of all the European countries where Spencer Stuart publishes a Board Index, only listed company boards in Spain and Ireland have lower percentages of female directors. More companies have at least 20% women on their executive committees (ExCos), however 44% of ExCos are still all-male. Lack of diversity on executive committees is a concern for future diversity in the boardroom. Swiss companies may be missing out on potential boardroom talent and could follow their European neighbours in actively seeking out high-potential candidates from inside and outside the listed sector.

Women Leaders: How We Got Here

From sponsorship to P&L opportunities, C-level women share the factors that contributed to their success

Solving the Disappearing Women Problem

Lessons from companies that prioritize diversity

Foreign directors

We define foreign directors as having a nationality that differs from that of the company. On this basis, boards in Switzerland remain highly diverse — 57.9% of directors are non-nationals. This figure is even higher if one looks only at the SMI 20, where it reaches 59%, consistent with the past four years. The Swatch Group remains the only board to have no foreign directors.

When looking at chairs, foreign chairs represent 33.3% of the SMI and are up to 40% in the SMI Mid. The same trend can be observed among the CEO role in the SMI, where 55.6% of CEOs are foreign. The proportion is even higher in the SMI Mid, at 64%.

Nationality of board directors in the SMI