Switzerland depends on women increasingly bringing their potential to bear on the natural and engineering sciences. In accordance with the Federal Council’s performance mandate, the ETH Board pursues a strategy that aims to promote equality of opportunity in the ETH Domain.

In the ETH Domain, the percentage of women is on a slow but steady increase at all academic career levels. Thus the proportion of women professors has risen by more than 45 % since 2005 and amounted to 10.9 % at the end of 2010. This percentage, however, is still distinctly below the target value of 25 % for women in leading positions and decision-making bodies that is enshrined in the Federal Council’s performance agreement (cf. box on p. 2). Yet the low proportion of women also reflects societal realities, such as traditional role models and a low percentage of students in the MINT subjects (mathematics, information technology, natural sciences and technology).

Switzerland depends on the advancement of women

Switzerland increasingly depends on the exploitation of all resources. The country cannot afford to have men and women still experiencing differing opportunities in their careers, in academia particularly in the exact sciences and in the natural and engineering sciences: these are the subjects that furnish the cornerstones for technical and scientific innovations and thus also for the further success of the Swiss economy. Making sure that women are able to employ and realise their potential in the MINT subjects, in particular, requires concerted and sustained promotion efforts.

Equality of opportunity targets in the ETH Domain

The ETH Board is aware of the ETH Domain’s responsibility for Switzerland’s society and economy. It calls for, and encourages, an increase in the proportion of women throughout the ETH Domain at the highest level. In order to attain the targets set by the Confederation, the ETH Board’s strategy for the promotion of equality of opportunity in the ETH Domain for 2008-2011 included measures for the advancement of women at all academic career levels and, in addition, measures to attract girls to science subjects:

  • when it comes to recruiting professors, the institutions comply with best practices (for instance, they draw up a profile with a view to potential women candidates, or appointment committees deliberately invite women academics to apply);
  • an increase in measures for the compatibility of an academic career and a family;
  • extension of the mentoring and career-building programmes for women students at all levels;
  • extension of active career promotion in the MINT subjects for girls of all school levels.
  • For the next few years (2012-2016), the ETH Domain intends to continue and reinforce these measures.

In the interest of a consolidation, and in view of a harmonisation of reporting, the ETH Board’s targets for the institutions additionally include the following elements:

  • doubling of the sum-total of the resources earmarked by the institutions of the ETH Domain for equality of opportunity measures to 0.4 % of the funding contribution,
  • intensification and specification of gender monitoring in the ETH Domain,
  • enhancing the effectiveness of the strategies for the promotion of the institutions’ equality of opportunity,
  • target values until 2016 for the percentages of women at the various academic career levels.
  • In addition to the measures of the ETH Domain’s individual institutions, the ETH Board supports the career-building programme Fix the leaky pipeline, which was jointly set up by the equal opportunities officers of the ETH Domain’s six institutions in 2007. This programme supports women nearing the end of their doctoral or post-doctoral studies who opt for an academic career.

Interim statement by the ETH Board

The ETH Board is pleased with the commitment displayed by the six institutions in the last few years. It is aware, however, that a distinct increase in the percentage of women in leading functions and in the natural and engineering sciences can only be attained in the context of changed role models of men and women in society. In its capacity as a major societal actor, the ETH Domain will continue to make its contribution in 2012-2016.