At a vote on Thursday the political institutions commission of the National Council – the larger of the two chambers of parliament – voted by 16 votes to 9 against imposing a quota, the Swiss news agency SDA reported.
The federal constitution guarantees a fair representation of regions and languages in the government but says nothing about women. Following the vote, this is set to continue.
The commission said it was not opposed to a better representation of women in the government but that this did not need to be anchored in the constitution.
It rejected the minority view that an equal representation of women on the government was as important for the country's cohesion as a balance between the different regions and languages.
The initiative was brought by Green politician Maya Graf and supported by the women's organization Alliance F, which staged a rally ahead of the vote.
Members of the group were dressed in red football strips as a sign of female solidarity.
Der Bundesrat ist das oberste Führungsteam unseres Landes. Wir wollen das beste Team. Nur wenn beide Geschlechter angemessen vertreten sind, können wir dies gewährleisten. Unterstütze uns: https://t.co/aCiOt8HtiT #bundesraetinnen pic.twitter.com/MJbwbBEZtL— alliance F (@alliance_F) January 11, 2018
Graf's initiative follows an announcement last summer by cabinet minister Doris Leuthard that she plans to step down in the near future.
Currently there are just two women in the government – Leuthard and Justice Minister Simonetta Sommaruga.
The maximum number of women who have served at one time is four – between 2010 and 2011.
The first woman to be elected to the Federal Council was Elisabeth Kopp in 1984.
In total just seven women have held a government position since women received a vote at federal level in 1971.
The National Council is made up of 33 percent women while women comprise just 15 percent of members of the Senate.
The commission also voted on Thursday against a quota for women in parliament.