In focus: Some government policies & schemes for women entrepreneurs in Switzerland
What are some things that Switzerland has to offer? Without a doubt, the amazing natural beauty of the majestic Alps, the placid lakes, quaint villages, cosmopolitan cities and towering castles….and you can add to it some shopping, wine tasting, delectable chocolates, cheese and so on.
In fact, one of the fastest-growing economies in Europe happens to be Switzerland. Besides being consistently ranked among the best countries in terms of quality of life, it also ranks third in the OECD in terms of GDP per capita. Switzerland has excellent framework conditions for entrepreneurship and is rated the most competitive country in the world, according to the Global Competitiveness Report. Still, as far as the role of women in business management is concerned, it is noted that Switzerland needs to improve.
In general, Swiss have a positive attitude toward entrepreneurship. Significant efforts have to be made to stimulate entrepreneurship and also help women and the younger generation to launch their business.
Here are some schemes and policies for women entrepreneurs in Switzerland.
> Inclusive government policies
Recognizing the need for uplifting women into the business scene in 2019, the Swiss parliament approved a government proposal calling for better representation of women at the top levels of large companies. This regulation was part of a revamp of Swiss corporate law which put forth that companies allocated at least 30% of positions on boards of directors and 20% of positions on executive boards to women over the next five and ten years, respectively.
This was a significant first step, which spiralled hope for the future of gender equality in Switzerland. Plus it would also roll out numerous opportunities for women to pursue careers in management services.
> SWISS STARTUPS ASSOCIATION
The goal of Swiss Startups Association is clear and simple – to increase the number of female founders in Switzerland. They strongly believe that diversity boosts innovation. They support female founders with networking opportunities, knowledge, expertise and education, and work closely with other organizations that support women in the startup environment.
Believing they are the driving force, they brought this project to life – to inspire and empower women to take the entrepreneurial path and to close the gender gap in the Swiss startup ecosystem.
As a project of the Swiss Startup Association, their aim is to support each other and build a more sustainable environment for women entrepreneurs, which includes promoting already existing organizations and making use of synergies.
> U N Women
Both Switzerland and UN Women are committed to gender equality; and as a strong champion of gender equality, Switzerland engages with UN Women on issues such as – women’s economic and political empowerment, including reducing and eliminating the gender pay gap; prevention of violence against women and girls; and gender equality in governance, national planning and budgeting.
Switzerland has prioritized regular resources and has remained consistent, providing a strong financial support. In 2020, Switzerland was UN Women’s third-largest government contributor to regular resources and the Swiss Government had contributed an aggregate amount of USD 190 million to UN Women.
Switzerland provides financial support to strengthen the functions of UN Women – to enable engagement with other Member States as well as its UN system coordination and operational capacity.
> Women Entrepreneurs Finance Initiative (We-Fi)
To help unlock the potential of women entrepreneurs, Women Entrepreneurs Finance Initiative (We-Fi) enables financing – to improve access to capital, provide technical assistance, and invest in projects and programs that support women and women-ledSMEs in World Bank Group client countries.
The We-Fi facility works to break down barriers to financial access and provide complementary services such as capacity building, access to networks and mentors, and opportunities to link with domestic and global markets, as well as improving the business environment for women-owned or women-led SMEs across the developing world.
Significantly, We-Fi fills a gap where there was no significant fund or facility committed to a holistic public and private sector approach to addressing the constraints faced by women entrepreneurs. So, We-Fi provides dedicated resources to foster innovation and new approaches to removing these constraints for women entrepreneurs. It will also help elevate the issue that leads to action by governments and private sector.
We-Fi is a Financial Intermediary Fund (FIF) housed at the World Bank, drawing on the Bank’s strong track record in designing and managing such Funds to ensure best practice in terms of governance and efficiency. The Bank acts as the Trustee for the facility, drawing on its financial platform and extensive experience with the provision of such services for other FIFs.
> Swiss Entrepreneurship Program
The aim is to strengthen entrepreneurial ecosystems and the mission specified is that – The Swiss Entrepreneurship Program “facilitates the strengthening of emerging entrepreneurial ecosystems to create a thriving, more equitable world for all”.
They connect local ecosystem organizations and entrepreneurs with experienced international entrepreneurs mainly to share their knowledge, expertise and connections. So they work together to help reach the goals local partners have set for themselves and thus, strengthen the performance of the startup ecosystems overall.
> Bank Loans
The federal government assists efficient, viable SMEs in obtaining bank loans by funding loan guarantee cooperatives; and these loan guarantee cooperatives enhance SMEs’ access to bank loans. The conditions are like this:
- Maximum lifetime of a guarantee is 10 years and the maximum guarantee amount per firm is CHF 500 000 (CHF 1 million from 1st of July 2019).
- Interest rates are set by the banks’ lending funds and depend on the riskiness of the project. In addition to the interest rate, firms typically have to pay a 1.25% commission fee to the guarantee cooperative.
- Financing is provided mainly for working capital, expansion, investments or starting a business. In the event of a default, the government refunds 65% of the deficiency to the guarantee cooperatives. By the end of 2020, the number of beneficiaries amounted to 1 866 firms for a total guarantee of CHF 316 million.
- The government also contributes an additional CHF 3 million annually toward the administrative costs of the guarantee cooperatives.
In Switzerland, there are four guarantee cooperatives help promising SMEs obtain bank loans – three are regional and one is national and provides its services exclusively to women. Loan guarantees increased steadily over 2007-10, declined slightly in 2011, grew until 2016, remained stable in 2017 and grew again in the period 2018-2020.
On 22nd of May 2019, the Federal Council brought into force the amendment of the Federal Law on Financial Aid – for guarantee organizations allowing guarantees up to CHF 1 million from the 1 July 2019. The impact of this change is already visible in the increase in the volume of the Government loan guarantees – which rose from CHF 285 million at the end of 2019 to CHF 315 million at the end of 2020, an increase of 10.5%.