My grandmother tirelessly collected signatures during decades. Although she had her own studio as a dressmaker, my grandfather could decide whether she was allowed to work or not. He could have terminated the joint family apartment without my grandmother's consent and would also have been solely responsible for managing the assets – including my grandmother's inheritance. As a committed trade unionist and local politician, he was by law the sole head of the family. Although he was otherwise a typical patriarch of his time, he supported women's suffrage and the commitment of my grandmother.
You may wonder what my grandmother was collecting signatures for? She was a member of the voting rights association in Oberhofen (BE). The women involved there have been fighting for women's suffrage since the 1950s. In 1971, at the second attempt, the time had finally come: 65.7% of the men entitled to vote accepted the initiative. Switzerland thus became one of the last countries in Europe to give women the right to vote at the national level.
Half a century after my grandmother, together with the women of her generation, fought for the approval of something we now take for granted, we see many excellently educated women in politics and business – independent as never before. Marriage and inheritance laws were still being revised in the 1980s. In 1981, equality between men and women was enshrined in the Swiss constitution. Thus there is at least on the legal side no more supremacy of the man.
Unfortunately, my grandmother passed away 20 years ago. But I'm sure she would be proud to see the mark her dedication left behind. And I am proud because the founders of Alternative Bank Switzerland (ABS) were already committed 30 years ago to ensuring that women and men have the same opportunities in professional life. Today we have an ABS where career and family are compatible at all levels of the hierarchy: In the management team we currently have two professional women and mothers working part-time and job sharing. Men and women receive the same salary for the same function. Thanks to salary transparency, this is also verifiable for everyone.
Just like women's suffrage 50 years ago, this should actually be a matter of course, with which we as ABS do not particularly stand out either. But this is not the case. The great women's strike on 14. June 2019 reminded us loudly, colorfully and clearly how much remains to be done, for example for central concerns such as equal pay, equal opportunities in the workplace, or that men and women share unpaid work.
I very much hope that both women and men will continue to work together, as my grandmother did, to finally achieve full gender equality.