The Year In Review: what has 2019 done for working parents?

d&i strategies gender diversity working parents Dec 16, 2019

At Thriving Talent & Thriving Parents, we have a goal to empower 1 million parents by end of 2020. As we come to closing 2019, we’ve looked back at some of the reports and stories in the news that either delighted or disappointed us! 


In January 2019 a study was published by the CIPD, Megatrends: Flexible Working, which concluded that flexible working had plateaued. The research found that opportunities were being missed because of unsupportive manager attitudes, limited available options and the negative assumptions of some employees about flexible working, for example that their job may be at risk if they seek to change their working patterns. However the report also highlighted the various benefits to business of flexible working hours.

Also this month, we published a new case study on diversity and inclusion consulting, featuring Philip Morris International. We shared details on how PMI embraces difference as a vital element of its business transformation and sets the conditions for this diversity to thrive. This was and still is available to read free of charge here if you’d like to take a look. PMI rolled out our Working Parent programme and Thrive Online - going from strength to strength, and award to award, succeeding in becoming an employer of choice.

We watched this video by The Economist showing how Iceland was pioneering ways to get more women back to work, to root out gender stereotypes and to close the pay gap.


In February 2019, we posted an article on Flexible Working in Switzerland: Where Are We Now? in which we referred to an imbalance between the demand for smart working and the availability of flexible jobs, causing a bottleneck in the Swiss talent market and pipeline. This is blocking career progression and job mobility for millions of people who need to work flexibly, termed as “flexism” by the team at Thriving Talent! 

Also this month, The Global Gender Gap Report was published based on the latest research from the World Economic Forum. It said that if current rates were to be maintained in the future, the overall global gender gap would close in 61 years in Western Europe. We saw Switzerland ranking 20th out of 149 countries on the WEF Global Gender Gap Index.

In a policy memo on family-friendly workplaces for the European Platform for Investing in Children, RAND Europe researchers found that more than one-third of respondents from across the EU said they found it difficult to combine paid work with their family responsibilities. This article shares some interesting insights about how family and work life varies across Europe.


On International Women’s Day in March 2019, the theme was Balance for Better. We did lots of speaking, ran Work Life Integration workshops, and actively participated in some of the many great events held here in Switzerland.

During this time, close to 100 CEOs and leaders in Switzerland united with a pledge to foster gender equality and equal opportunities in the workplace. We were delighted to be celebrating International Women's Day with Advance in Zurich, witnessing the commitments they had asked of their members. Many CEOs were recognising that to achieve gender equality, they need to look at how they empower employees to have a caring role outside of work.

Also this month, Novartis announced a minimum global 14 weeks paid paternity leave which sparked fresh debate on parental and paternity leave policies here in Switzerland. One of our co-founders Deborah Croft quickly made contact with Novartis to share our expertise in how to maximise the take-up of the new policy. In addition to consulting support, we provided a toolkit for Managers to ensure they championed the adoption of the policy, defined KPIs to effectively measure and ran webinars to support the global change champions. Deborah shared “Being a part of the global change management team at Novartis was incredibly rewarding. Everyone shared the same passion and conviction that the policy needed to be fully maximised by all fathers, to reap the anticipated benefits.” 

Many organisations have come to us in the last six months as they are now on the cusp of bringing in policy changes which is brilliant news for Switzerland and will finally be the catalyst for greater cultural change. 

We read that according to a Swiss government-commissioned study, 10% of women in the country face discrimination after maternity leave. It’s time to end the stigma on mothers in the workplace that is holding their careers and the country back. Equally, we need to ensure that all people managers know how to best support any of their team who has caring responsibilities (be it for children, ageing parents, sick relatives), so they remain engaged and motivated at work.


We published another case study about management training focussed on removing unconscious bias from the recruitment and interview process, and hiring decisions at CERN. We have trained over 400 people there now, and helped them to raise awareness of unconscious biases that can cloud objectivity during the recruitment process. This has been instrumental in driving CERN’s inclusion and diversity efforts.

Dove partnered with Getty Images and Girlgaze Inc to #unstereotype stock images and create the world's largest stock photo library. We are always looking for images that break stereotypes to use for Thriving Talent so this was great to hear. 


We supported the Global Women’s International Networking Conference to discuss how to create courageous, inclusive and innovative organisations that are actively shaping a future in which we all thrive. Debbie shared her expertise in how enabling caring at work to create better work life integration is a key lever for inclusion and diversity in leadership roles.

Volvo took the initiative to improve their parental leave offering in Switzerland by offering both mothers and fathers of newborn babies 24 weeks leave at 80 percent pay. This would make it the most generous employer in Switzerland. People who adopt children will be eligible for the same parental leave entitlements and the leave can be taken any time within the first three years after the child’s birth or after adopting.

Switzerland was at the bottom of the list when it came to the wage gap between men and women in senior roles. Looking at employees across the board, Switzerland had the third largest gap between men and women, behind Austria and Israel, after a survey of 13,000 companies in 70 countries. Véronique Goy Veenhuys, founder of the Equal Salary Foundation and the team at PWC are working hard to change this!


Research by Pro Familia found that having a child costs Swiss mothers on average CHF20,000 per year away or CHF470,000 over their working lives. Most of the decrease in income is due to the loss of work experience. But the authors of the study do not rule out discrimination on account of maternal status, i.e. the employer assuming that women are more likely to be absent in the event of a child's illness. 

Swiss women protested en masse on 14th June calling for equal treatment in the workplace and beyond, arguing that a fairer workforce is good for business and shares what companies can do to help close the gender gap.

A report by Deloitte and DaddiLife revealed that millennial dads were increasingly changing work patterns to take on more childcare: 87% of fathers aged 25 to 40 were closely involved in day-to-day parenting. The report also found that nearly two thirds had requested more flexible working patterns since becoming a dad. But it also reported that employers haven’t kept up with parents’ needs.


A global report called State of the World’s Fathers by stated that 85% of men say they would do anything to be very involved in the caring of their newborn child, yet fewer than half of the world’s countries offer paid paternity leave and when it’s available, it’s often less than 3 weeks and sometimes just a few days. Over 65% of women said mothers would have better physical health and over 75% said they would have better mental health if fathers took at least 2 weeks paternity leave.

A reader survey by concluded that many parents felt Switzerland doesn’t support modern families with its parental leave policies. With women receiving just 16 weeks maternity leave (less than the six months generally recommended for breast-feeding) and men having no statutory paternity leave, parents in Switzerland struggle to achieve a work-life balance.


During World Breastfeeding Week, The World Health Organisation encouraged family-friendly policies – such as paid parental leave – to enable breastfeeding and help parents nurture and bond with their children in early life, when it matters most. Mothers need time off from work to recover from birth and get breastfeeding off to a successful start. Paid paternity leave allows fathers to bond with their babies and promotes gender-equality, including through the sharing of childrearing and household responsibilities.

Alexis Ohanian, partner to Serena Williams, spoke out in favour of paternity leave saying it was crucial after the birth of his child and every father deserves it. He said: “The understanding of my responsibility to care for my family that I gained during those first months after Olympia’s birth has never left me, and it gives purpose to my fatherhood today.”

In response to The World Economic Forum’s prediction that it will take 208 years to reach gender equality in the U.S, #EqualityCantWait launched a high profile video campaign using celebrities to try and speed up the process (language warning for video). 


O2 won the Best Diversity and Inclusion Initiative in the CIPD People Management Awards 2019 for their career returners scheme. In the three years since it launched, the scheme unlocked the talent and experience of scores of engaged workers following career breaks, and increased the representation of women in STEM careers at O2.

The World Economic Forum published an article about how gender equality at home among heterosexual couples has progressed even more slowly than in public life. Family Theorist Frances Goldscheider was referenced for his argument that the goal of moving women into what has traditionally been men’s territory in the paid labor force is just the “first half” of the gender revolution. Without progress on the “second half” of that revolution – men picking up an equal share of work at home – other efforts, such as equal pay, won’t be enough to make the work that women and men do equitable.


A record number of women were elected to Swiss Parliament - making up 42% in the House of Representatives, while in 2015 only 32% of MPs were female. With parties strongly supporting gender equality making up a larger percentage of the House, we looked forward to finally making some progress on Swiss family policies. Rona Bolliger made some valid points about gender equality in Switzerland in this article

In October 2019, we spoke to a COO who shared how his company had invested millions in training over the years and yet the reality was that they hadn’t made a significant impact in the number of female directors and it was still a depressing less than 15%.

We talked about the benefits of programs that specifically enable “Caring and Career”, as this is one of the key enablers to ensure more women move into leadership. We shared how effective coaching and leadership training, coupled with active sponsorship and championing from senior leaders in the organisation, has a significant positive influence on empowering women.You can read more about this conversation here.


A poll of nearly 3,000 people by Working Mums and Working Dads found that fathers in the workplace struggled to secure the flexible hours they needed to balance work and home life and faced stigma from line managers and colleagues when they worked flexibly. Two in five working fathers who applied for flexible working had their requests turned down.

One in five working dads with flexible arrangements felt discriminated against by their managers and co-workers, and a quarter reported that their line manager did not understand the pressures of juggling work with family life.

On International Men's Day, we celebrated the positive value men bring to the world, their families and communities. At Thriving Talent, we have long held the belief that men need to be better supported at work as they have caring responsibilities - be it as a father, godfather, uncle....Often there is more bias and stigma around men stepping into caring roles. Organisations need to address this through policy changes and culturally, so that senior men role model a healthy integration of their professional and personal lives. 

Women in Public Affairs uncovered a culture in which women felt uncomfortable asking about an organisation's maternity policies during interviews, unable to take up flexible working opportunities once hired, and unsupported in their career progression.


So here we are. It’s easy to read some of the above reports and feel disheartened, but every week we read another new story or hear of an organisation making positive changes. People are talking about it, the research is being done, and policies are changing. 

The rate of change may be slower than we’d like, but things are improving for working parents and carers. In our work over the last 12 months, we have seen many drastic transformations for our own clients - and we aren’t the only ones pushing this agenda.

Like most global issues, equality for working parents and carers  will only be achieved by small acts that reverberate. Our constant nudges are moving the needle. Whether we improve one individual’s outlook or implement successful parent programs in entire organisations, we are changing the world for those people. And our work goes on with our committed, loyal team who are also passionate about making a positive difference, so that we all have the right to choose a caring role and a career; without overwhelm guilt or burn out!

At Thriving Talent & Thriving Parents, we have a goal to empower 1 million parents by end of 2020. If you would like to explore how you can create a culture which enables “caring and career” in your organisation, using a successful, holistic approach, please email us at [email protected].

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