Geneva march organizers ask women to leave work early to protest gender pay gap
Women in Switzerland are being asked to leave work early on March 8th, International Women’s Day, to highlight the gender pay gap in the country.
The event is organized by Women’s March Geneva, the volunteer-led grassroots body that arranged a human rights march in the city on January 21st, the day after US President Trump’s inauguration.
The march was one of multiple ‘sister’ marches held in cities across the world in protest at Trump’s comments on women, immigrants, the disabled and climate change, among other things.
Over 2,000 people turned out to the Geneva event – more than the expected 700 – while millions participated worldwide.
Ahead of the march organizer Karen Olson told The Local that it may not be a one-off but could spell the beginning of a movement with a future life.
As a result, Geneva’s second event, planned for International Women’s Day on March 8th, asks women across Switzerland to highlight the gender pay gap.
On that day women are asked to leave work at 3.20pm, 20 percent earlier than the typical work day, “to highlight the time each day that women go unpaid compared to their male counterparts,” organizers said in a statement.
Participants are asked to post a photo of themselves with a clock showing the hour of 3.20pm and the hashtags #20percentearly and #equalpay.
From 3.30pm to 5pm a gathering for yoga and meditation will be held at the Bains de Paquis in Geneva.
"Swiss law mandates equal pay for women and men, yet women in Switzerland earn 20% less on average than men for the same work," Olson told The Local on Wednesday.
"We are choosing to draw attention to this anomaly by taking control of the time for which we are not paid each workday with our women’s walkout."
"Clearly, the time is past for Swiss women to accept lower pay for the same work as their male counterparts," she added, saying the walkout is aimed to be an annual event "until the day we have eliminated the gender pay gap."
The event is held in support of an ‘international women’s strike’ taking place in 30 countries, where women are encouraged to take the day off from paid or unpaid work and announce their action on social media.
"While we have chosen not to strike on March 8th, we are asking our members to wear red that day to demonstrate their solidarity with the strike," Olson told The Local.
Recent Eurostat figures showed that Switzerland has one of the largest gender pay gaps in Europe, with women earning 19.3 percent less than their male colleagues, worse than the European average of 16.4 percent.
Vivian Fankhauser-Feitknecht of Alliance F, an umbrella organization for women's associations in Switzerland, told The Local in October that the wage gap was exacerbated by the prevalence of gender stereotypes in Switzerland.
“Career choices are still very much determined by patterns that are influenced or prescribed by society. Women's working lives are characterized by unpaid work, career interruptions or part-time work," she said.
“There is still a lack of strategic involvement from the media on this matter and the topic does not receive sufficient attention in schools.”
To date, awareness-raising has had little impact, and successes only occur when mandatory measures are imposed, she added.
In September 2016 ten cantons signed a charter vowing to combat salary inequality in public sector jobs through wage-monitoring.