Gender inequality is a topic of high importance that has gained attention over recent years, especially with the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development in sight. In 2021, the Federal Council adopted the Swiss government’s first national strategy specifically aimed at promoting gender equality (the 2030 gender equality strategy/“Gleichstellungsstrategie 2030″). It focuses on four central themes: promoting equality in the workplace, improving work-life balance, preventing violence, and fighting discrimination. The key measures are expected to be adopted or implemented by 2023.
An important driver of gender equality is the Federal Office for Gender Equality (EBG), which is affiliated to the Federal Department of Home Affairs. Current key issues have no cultural policy focus. They include equal pay, how to balance family and professional life, domestic violence, and implementing the recommendations of the UN Committee on the Elimination of Discrimination against Women.
In addition to gender equality, the City of Bern’s equality mandate since 2018 also includes the legal and actual equality of LGBTIQ people in all areas of life. As members of the Rainbow Cities Network, the cities of Geneva and Zurich commit to having an active LGBT policy and to include LGBT issues in its general municipal policies.
Gender relations in the Swiss cultural sector
The appropriate representation of gender in all relevant areas of cultural creation is an objective of the Confederation’s cultural policy. The Culture Dispatch 2021 – 2024 provides for the collection of in-depth statistical data and the examination of corresponding measures. In 2021, the Swiss Arts Council Pro Helvetia presented a preliminary study on gender relations with three key findings, as described on Pro Helvetia’s website:
- women are under-represented in leadership positions: At the level of the strategic management (sponsoring bodies) of the cultural institutions and enterprises included in the analysis, only 28.8 percent of women are at presidential level.
- Female artists and their work have lower visibility and receive awards less often: In the performing arts, for example, the share of women in the fields of directing and choreography was around one third in the 2018/19 season. Among conductors in classical music, the share of women is 6.6 per cent. Among performers (soloists and orchestra/accompanying band) in classical music, the proportion of women is around 34 per cent, in jazz just under 12 per cent and in rock/pop between 8.6 and 12.8 per cent. The inequalities are also evident at the level of awards: Out of 828 awards examined, 37.1 per cent went to women.
- women earn less than men: According to the study, there are hardly any concrete figures on current pay ratios that would allow precise statements. According to the preliminary study, the data examined gave the first indications of a gender pay gap in favour of men.
According to the preliminary study, the central cause for the unequal ratio can be assumed to be the still effective orientation towards male-dominated life plans in the field of art and culture, from which topics such as the question of reconciling work and family, hierarchical power relations, as well as gender norms as an “unconscious bias” in the cultural sector can be derived. The preliminary study formulated the following recommendations (quoted from the website):
- data about incomes and the extent of the gender pay gap must be surveyed in depth.
- insight into career trajectories and information about central moments in artistic careers are necessary to understand the reasons artists choose to continue or abandon an artistic career.
- in a related aspect, the issue of compatibility of family and professional life must be investigated.
- the issue of financial support at various levels (Federal, cantons, local government) requires greater research, taking into account the complexity of funding mechanisms and opportunities.
- future research must integrate the areas of education and the universities (accessibility, selection criteria, curricula, teaching staff, number of students and graduates).
Gender equality and Film
The Swiss Federal Office of Culture (FOC) is committed to gender equality in film promotion. The statistics by the Cinema Section of the FOC show that in 2020, the share of feature films funded by women directors was over 50% for the first time in 5 years (54%), and the sum of production contributions for projects by women and men directors through the FOC’s selective film funding programme was practically the same. Women were underrepresented in screenplay funding (34%), as well as in project development funding (39%) and production funding (41%) of documentaries.
Since 2016, the FOC has put several measures in place to support gender equality in the Swiss film industry. Firstly, within the FOC’s selective film funding programme, projects by female directors or screenwriters must be favoured over projects by their male counterparts of equal artistic quality. Secondly, the FOC coordinates nationwide standardised data collections in collaboration with regional and private film funding institutions and regularly publishes statistics on gender equality on-screen and off-screen. Those statistics show that women were underrepresented in Swiss films on Swiss cinema screens from 2017-2019: only one in three protagonists in documentaries were women, and female protagonists in fiction films tended to be younger than 40 years old while male protagonists were equally represented in all age groups. Thirdly, the FOC supports the reconciliation of work and family life in the film industry by taking into account the cost of caring for children and dependants in their production funding.
Associations such as the Swiss Women’s Audiovisual Network (for the film sector) and HELVETIAROCKT (for the music sector), are further examples of engaging initiatives that promote actions and programmes towards equality and representation.