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Pathways to Power: Women in Swiss Institutional Politics

Political Participation
Political Sociology
Political Activism
Lea Sgier
University of Geneva
Lea Sgier
University of Geneva

Abstract

One of the most noted exceptionalisms in Swiss politics, from a gender perspective, is the late introduction of female suffrage at the federal level (1971). It is only since the 1990s that Switzerland has caught up with the European average and counts today about one third of women representative on average at every level of the political system (federal, cantonal, local), with large disparities among cantons though. This contribution aims to shed light on both the “oddities” and the subsequent normalisation of the presence of women in institutional politics, with a particular emphasis on institutional factors and on the role of political parties. It also sets the late introduction of female suffrage in the wider context of direct democracy, federalism, decentralised party politics, with an eye on cantonal diversity. The pathways of women into institutional politics and theirs consequences are retraced partly on the basis of existing (including historiographic) scholarship, and partly through original analyses.