Open Letter from Véronique Goy Veenhuys


Jun 12, 2019
Véronique Goy Veenhuys
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As a young mother I participated in that first women’s strike in 1991. That day I was at home here in Switzerland with my 3-year-old daughter and my 18-month-old son. I had written ON STRIKE on a bed sheet hanging in front of the house, decorated with brooms and other household utensils to mark my solidarity with the movement. It was my first “public” commitment to equality between women and men.

Since then, my children have grown up. Seven years ago I became a grandmother for the first time, and today I have three granddaughters and a grandson. With this new responsibility equality is all the more important to me, particularly equal pay between women and men. I dread having to answer my granddaughters’ questions in the future: “Grandma, why am I earning less than my brother?”.

In 2005, having observed a contradiction between the reality of the gender pay gap and the business discourse, realizing that claiming to pay women and men equally was no longer sufficient for organizations, I created EQUAL-SALARY, a certification for equal pay between women and men. At the time, it was a pioneering idea which seemed almost Utopian. Back then I had to start with explaining the concept of equal pay between men and women, why it mattered, and how to fix it.

Fifteen years later and here we are on the eve of a strike focusing on women’s demands for equality. Equal pay is a major topic. It affects women as much as their families during their working lives, but also during retirement.

Sadly, by looking at the numbers the situation has not changed much. In 2012, the wage gap between women and men in Switzerland was 21.3%. It fell to 19.5% in 2014 to rise yet again to 19.6% in 2016. (1)

Successive governments have put equal pay on their agendas, with or without binding measures. Pressure has been felt on all sides. At the end of 2018, the Swiss parliament accepted a modest change to the law, requiring companies with more than 100 employees to assess the gender pay gap every four years – with no penalty for non-compliance. Ask yourself – what would be the impact of speed control on the roads without a penalty for violators?

On the solutions side, where are we? Thanks to political pressure, many consultants are now offering their services to assess equal pay in companies, with more or less transparent approaches, requirements and methodology.

The EQUAL-SALARY Foundation, which received funding from the Confederation, has actively contributed to the cause of equal pay. By engaging companies and other organizations – small and large, private or public, Swiss and international – to turn words into action, the Foundation helps companies demonstrate they have equal pay between women and men.

In 10 years, more than 100 certification procedures have been conducted, including a world first, a multinational company awarded the “EQUAL-SALARY GLOBALLY CERTIFIED” label in March 2019. In total, more than 130,000 employees in more than 90 countries benefit from these certifications. These companies decided not to wait until they were forced by law to ensure equal pay between men and women. They preferred to take a pioneering position in their sectors, allowing them to attract and retain talent, to position themselves positively in their markets, to reassure donors/investors, to meet the standards of good governance or to fulfill public tenders’ conditions.

At the end of the day isn’t this how a company stands out, positions itself as a leader and differentiates itself from the competition? Taking measures for equal pay between men and women is the basis of an employer’s respect for its employees, a demonstration of commitment by management to its workforce.

Younger employees, more than ever before, expect employers to act in a transparent and authentic fashion. The #metoo movement has unified the language and call to action of women. To position themselves as responsible and accountable, organizations must now choose how they wish to continue. It is not enough anymore to say ‘we believe in the practice of equal pay”. It is necessary to be able to prove disparities have been transparently resolved.

Our vision of the future? Reaching at least one million employees around the world within five years to raise global awareness in companies and other stakeholders, and thus end once and for all this shameful debate. As Minister Alain Berset said of Switzerland in 2018: “wage inequality is one of the biggest scandals (…) of our country “. The women’s strike should affect us all. (2)

Véronique Goy Veenhuys
Founder & CEO


[1] Source : Federal Statistical Office, press release from January 31, 2019.

[2] Source : lematin.ch

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