On Friday, thousands of women took to the streets of Switzerland to protest gender disparities both at home and in the workplace. The protestors marched through some of Switzerland’s largest and most populous cities including Geneva, Zurich, and Bern, as well as smaller towns throughout the country.
A large group of demonstrators amassed outside of the Federal Assembly in Bern, the home of the federal legislature, and at 3:24 pm, the average time at which women stop being paid while men continue earning money for their work based on average measures of pay inequality, a nationwide walkout took place. Even female members of the Swiss Federal Council left their desks to join the march.
A manifesto released by the organizers of the protest stated that “[o]n June 14, we strike. A paid work strike, a domestic work strike, a care strike, a school strike and a consumer strike. So that our work becomes visible, so that our demands are understood, so that the public sphere becomes something for all women.” Women at the protest also called for more paid family leave as well as an expansion of protections for immigrant women, members of the LGBTQ community, and survivors of domestic violence.
The protests are a testament to the progress that still has to be done in Switzerland to achieve gender parity. The annual Global Gender Pay Gap study conducted by the World Economic Forum revealed the disturbing reality that in wage equality for similar work, Switzerland ranks 44th in the world. In addition, the Swiss government did not provide women with paid maternity leave until 2005 and it still does not recognize paid paternity leave.
Friday’s protest took place on the 28th anniversary of the first workers’ strike by Swiss women. At the time, the 1991 strike was the largest workers’ strike in Switzerland with roughly 500,000 people present. The organizers of Friday’s protest hope to keep the momentum going by continuing the strike next year as well.
Media Resources: The New York Times 6/14/19, NPR 6/14/19, CNN 6/14/19, Feminist Newsire 10/19/15, World Economic Forum 2018