The latest edition of the Global Gender Gap Index, published by the World Economic Forum, confirms greater equality in Switzerland. But here, as in other countries, women are still not conquering the heights of politics.

According to the Index, equality in politics has improved in Switzerland over the last few years; the country is now ranked 13th in this area (and 10th overall). This development became particularly noticeable since 2008, thanks to the increasing number of women “at the top” (currently, three out of the seven Federal Council ministers are women).

However, compared to other sectors (employment, education and health), equality in politics remains low. Only 29% of elected members on Switzerland’s National Council and 19.6% on the Council of States are women. Furthermore, women on average only represent 25% of cantonal legislatures and 23.7% of cantonal executives in Switzerland (Federal Office of Statistics, 2012).

Women’s participation in politics is also low. In 2011, only 46% of women (compared to 51% of men) voted in federal elections (Selects – FORS, Lausanne 2012). Admittedly, this gap has narrowed since 2007. Nonetheless, women are also less inclined to put themselves forward as candidates for top political posts. In 2011, only 32.7% of candidates were women, predominantly on the left.

So why do women, like oxygen, become thinner on the ground at higher altitudes? No doubt because the life of a woman in politics still requires a climber’s stamina. If we consider society and the division of labour, it takes a lot more effort to go to work, look after the family and sit on committee meetings.

As a woman in politics, you also have to deal with the fact that parts of the media will focus on how you look, convinced that female politicians spend their time preening themselves. In addition, being a woman in politics means helping develop ideas over your own career. It is in this spirit of cooperation that I spent a lot of time working alongside my friend and former colleague at the Council of States, Liliane Maury Pasquier.

In working to ensure that society makes it easier for women to progress, I encourage them to continue their quest to reach the top.

Author: Maria Roth-Bernasconi is a Member of the Swiss National Council and former President of Femmes Socialistes Suisses.

Image: A watchmaker adjusts the movement of a watch at the headquarters of a luxury watch company near Geneva. REUTERS/Denis Balibouse