Diversity and Inclusion Month at SIX: One Month, One Topic, Many Perspectives

Diversity and Inclusion Month at SIX: One Month, One Topic, Many Perspectives

Companies that value a diverse and inclusive corporate culture create for themselves a long-term competitive advantage. Read how SIX raised employee awareness on this topic for an entire month – and more.

“We prefer the carrot, but sometimes you still need the stick,” said Sylvie Durrer, Director of the Swiss Federal Office for Gender Equality, of the efforts by the Swiss government on the equality front. She was the opening speaker at a panel discussion organized jointly by SIX and the International Institute for Management Development (IMD). The event, titled “Carrot or Stick: the Impact of Government Gender Policy”, took place in March of this year as part of the first Diversity & Inclusive Month (D&I Month) at SIX.

Director Durrer began by providing the more than 150 online participants with a brief historical outline of the path taken toward the equality of men and women in Switzerland, beginning in 1971 when women got the right to vote.  A lot has happened since then, but there is still a lot to do, as can be seen from the National Gender Equality Strategy 2030 adopted in April 2021. The fact remains that in the Swiss economy 83% of top management positions are still held by men. While women still make up 40% of the workforce at the lowest management level, their proportion steadily decreases with each level upward in the hierarchy. But Switzerland is not alone in this: According to the WEF’s Global Gender Gap Report, only 27% of all management positions worldwide are occupied by women.

It Pays To Invest in Diversity

According to Sylvie Durrer, changing this will require the establishment of comprehensive infrastructure for child care and education – as is available in France. The creation of affordable daycare centers is the “billion-dollar question” and above all companies have a duty to invest in such an infrastructure.

It has already been proven multiple times that such investments pay off. For example, a study from the Competence Centre for Diversity & Inclusion at the University of St. Gallen states that in Switzerland approximately 54,000 women with completed tertiary education aren’t able to contribute their skills in the job market. According to this study, the Swiss gross domestic product (GDP) could be roughly 190 billion Swiss francs higher if the proportion of women in the workforce equaled that of men by 2025. And a higher GDP ultimately means greater prosperity for everyone.

Corporate Culture Is More Important than Processes

Jos Dijsselhof could only concur with Director Durrer’s remarks. The CEO of SIX regards it as clearly proven that a mixed workforce leads to better corporate performance. Dijsselhof, together with Magali Anderson, Chief Sustainability and Innovation Officer at Holcim, and David Bach, Professor of Strategy and Political Economy at IMD, sat on a discussion panel at the event, moderated by journalist Hannah Wise. “The stick is needed, since it helps steer things in the right direction,” Dijsselhoff said.  But the path taken must also be followed by employees based on their own convictions, causing a cultural change in the company. That’s because in the end a company’s culture is more important than its processes.  

The entire D&I month at SIX was essentially about creating an open and multicultural corporate culture, with mix of ages and genders. At a total of 21 events, employees of SIX and external experts thoroughly considered and analyzed the topic from a variety of perspectives. “It isn’t just about the equality of men and women, rather the inclusion of all employees regardless of what age, gender, religion, or ethnic background,” said Patricia Gilliard, Senior Specialist Diversity & Inclusion at SIX and one of the organizers of D&I Month, which was celebrated throughout the company.

Diversity & Inclusion Month at SIX: an Agenda Full of Surprises

Thanks to the broad perspective, there were a few surprises on the agenda, such as an event on the topic of autism, and the special strengths of autistic people. Here, too, there were no reservations. Autistic people have enormous skills that can be very enriching, for example for IT projects and data-based tasks, and the corresponding teams, explained Gilliard.

The D&I Month program was well received by employees: “Thank you for the professional organization of the various events. I especially liked the workshop on Imposter Syndrome. I have already been able to use and actively apply some of the methods,” wrote Claudia Zeuren, Senior IT Security Officer at SIX by way of feedback. Participants were shown how to overcome self-doubt about their own abilities and to realize that their successes are indeed well deserved.

How Is SIX Implementing Diversity & Inclusion?

Diversity & Inclusion has been strongly rooted in the company strategy of SIX since 2021. It is the stated objective to have at least 25% of the management positions occupied by women by 2023. In 2021, that share rose by 2.9% to a total of 22.2%. An internally convened D&I committee and Senior Specialist Diversity & Inclusion Patricia Gilliard, as topic manager, promote the topic at SIX. Their commitment is bearing fruit in the form of numerous internal initiatives and external accolades:

  • formation of the Gender Diversity Networkfounding of the LGBT+ community within SIX
  • regularly holding a Girls 4 IT days and a Women in Cyber Day event
  • parents@work for support and advice for working parents
  • four weeks paternity leave for fathers
  • awarded the D&I Journey seal by the Competence Centre for Diversity and Inclusion at the University of St. Gallen 
  • received the Fair-ON-Pay award for wage parity

Ring the Bell for Gender Equality

D&I Month was rung in quite literally with the already traditional Bell Ringing on International Women’s Day on March 8. On the Madrid trading floor of the Spanish BME, owned by SIX, women heralded International Women’s Day early in the morning, and at Six Swiss Exchange in Zurich, women closed the trading day with another Ring the Bell for Gender Equality.

At both locations, the ringing of the bells has become a popular event for the local financial sector in recent years. In Zurich, the Bell Ringing was celebrated for the 8th straight year with more than 50 women (and men) from the financial sector. The lively discussions included the question of how to interest women in financial issues in general. In a live vote, the audience voted in favor of developing more financial products in order to sensitize women to the topic of finance.

What Do Equality Indices Accomplish?

The event on Equality Indices was also organized with the Spanish BME. For both markets, a corresponding Gender Equality Index measures listed companies on the basis of their efforts to achieve gender equality. For the Swiss SPI Gender Equality Index, 20% to 80% of the board of directors must be women, and 15% to 85% of management positions must be occupied by women. Such stock indices are a modern and straightforward means of steering cash flows. The more investors take gender issues into consideration when choosing where to invest, the more the companies that have already successfully addressed the issue will gain. That ultimately helps the entire topic of diversity to gain traction, and more attention.

LGBT+ Community Provides Color

Generating and maintaining attention is increasingly a difficult endeavor in our fast-paced times. The queer community uses the colors of the rainbow, and occasionally likes to wear loud and provocative outfits – as can be admired each year during the Pride parade. The LGBT+ community at SIX was also at last year’s Pride event. Formed in March 2021, the community counts more than 60 members, and maintains a lively exchange among members. In D&I Month the topic of Gender Identity was also given attention with events on Gender Fluidity and Trans - Diversity.

D&I month at SIX ended on March 31, and Patricia Gilliard was happy to take stock. “I am very happy and proud that we were even able to have something like D&I Month at SIX,” she said. “We were able to sensitize a lot of employees to the issues of diversity and inclusion.” Employee interest was particularly high in the two home markets of Switzerland and Spain. For another staging of the event, she hopes to see a bit more participation from the international affiliates – after all, SIX has locations in 21 countries. “That’s also diversity,” she grins.

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