Schweizerischer Verband der Akademikerinnen
Association Suisse des Femmes Diplômées des Universités

International Meeting in Zurich between the Turkish Association of University Women (TAUW) and the Swiss Association of University Women (SVA). Programme 20 – 24 June 2017


The idea of this meeting all started at the Cape Town Conference in 2016, at an informal dinner between delegates from the Turkish and Swiss NFAs. Why not organize an event between our two associations that would focus on the educational, social and constitutional models of our countries? Two weeks later we receive an initiative of suggestions from our Turkish Association, and the planning begins. Dr. Karoline Dorsch, President of the Zurich Association and SVA CIR drives the tasks and organization at hand, together with Prof. Katharina Strub, GWI Treasurer and Sheila Buemi-Moore, Member of the Commission for International Relations (both from Geneva) and on 20 June 2017 we are delighted to greet the members of the Turkish Association:


Prof. Gaye ERBATUR, TAUW President

Gülen CETIN, TAUW Vice President

Perihan TÜLÜCE, TAUW Secretary of the Board


Prof. Dr. Gönül BALKIR, TAUW Executive Board member


Day 1

Our hosts arrive and are greeted at the airport by Karoline Dorsch. A walking tour of the city in the afternoon shows different landmarks and finishes at Reithalle, in the garden restaurant. Katharina Strub and Sheila Buemi-Moore, greet them in the early evening for the welcome reception.

Day 2

Our programme for the day was busy. In the morning our SVA President, Doris Boscardin, joined us with members Elsbeth von Navarini (former GWI Treasuerer, from the Grisons Section), Verena Müller and Andrea Linsmayer (both from Zurich). We were received by Seline Fischbacher, Deputy Head of the Office of External Relations at the State Chancellery of Zurich. Our purpose was to provide a presentation on Swiss democracy, one of the oldest direct democracies in Europe promoting federalism. Seline Fischbacher underlined the importance of how democracy and federalism work together in Switzerland. She presented the three levels of the Confederation, comprised of federal, cantonal and communal powers. The first Swiss Constitution was promulgated in 1848 and was based on the American model. It was important for the cantons (states) to retain their sovereignty and to maintain and promote diversity, multilingualism and the protection of minorities within the country. Revisions either partial or total were introduced progressively. It was not until 1971 that equal rights for women were introduced at a Federal level.

The Swiss model of government underlines the importance of consensus and integration rather than opposition. The Federal Council is represented by a college of 7 members, each of which heads a government department. The Federal Council is elected by the two parliamentary chambers and their tasks are laid out in the Federal Constitution.

What is the proportion of women in Swiss Parliament? In 2015 women represented 32% of its 200 members in the National Council and 7 out of 46 in the Council of State. In 2010 women reached a majority in the Federal Council, obtaining 4 out of 7 seats.

In Turkey, the proportion of women in Parliament represents 14% in spite of the introduction of full universal suffrage in 1934, well before that of Switzerland.


Our delegation was then greeted by the Office for Gender Equality of the Canton of Zurich, a branch of the Department of Justice and Home Affairs. Alexandra Imbach and Yannick Staubli presented their mandate to eliminate discrimination as well as other projects and activities focusing on the social and economic inclusion of diversity. One of their studies highlighted the impact of gender stereotypes: when seeking employment, 75% of men choose from 31 different jobs whereas 75% of women choose from 14 different jobs.

To manage and change the perception of gender roles, Alexandra Imbach and Yannick Staubli are working at all age levels. They have introduced amusing activities through a game called “Job Matcher” that defies classic stereotype thinking by highlighting society’s tendencies to associate women to care giving roles and men to technical ones. This game surprises in a playful way that gender should not be the criteria to choose a profession. This has been introduced at primary schools and workshops are organized at secondary schools as well as within professional circles. Other workshops focus on “work-life balance”. The canton of Zurich is an important employer of the country and studies of the employment market have shown that in the working situation an 18% wage difference between men and women exists. Factors such as education, experience, hierarchy and seniority can meet objective criteria to explain this difference. However, 8.7% cannot be explained using the same measured criteria for the same function. Gender still plays an important role at the work place. Service is offered to NGOs and firms in the private sector and some of the latter sign charters to reduce the wage gap. The pillars of equality promoted are:

1) Choice of profession

2) Work-Life Balance

3) Equal Salary, and

4) other factors such as individual and institutional counselling against discrimination and sexual harassment, speeches, diversity and inclusion events.


Our meeting ends with an invitation to a lunch cruise on Lake Zurich.              


After a stroll through the old town we headed towardsthe Municipal Council, the Parliament of the City of Zurich. We were able to follow a busy session of Parliament from the grandstand. The Council is elected every four years by the voters of the City of Zurich.


In spite of the long day and very warm weather Verena Müller, a historian and expert of women’s history, treated us to a lovely tour explaining the surrounding landmarks, archaeological remnants of former Roman baths along with historical anecdotes on some of Zurich’s famous and historical figures.


Day 2

University of Zurich (UZH): Diversity and Equality at UZH, Office of Gender Equality.

The objective is to reach equality of women and men to ensure a balanced representation of both sexes in all university functions be it research, teaching and/or administration. Dr. Christiane Löwe, Head of the Office for Gender Equality, promotes and manages opportunities to reach these goals. Tanja Neve-Seyfarth who works for the Office of Gender Equality provided a first presentation on Academic Career Development and Life Balance at UZH which explained the legal basis, facts and figures and the priority topics to manage and change such as unconscious bias. In December 2016, a study at the university showed that 79% of professors were men while only 21% were women whereas the positions of assistant professors showed 22% of men and 78% of women. Problems clearly begin at the post doctorate level and up. There is a Code of Conduct on Gender Policy to support the implementation of objectives to counsel and support in the areas of child care, part-time employment and provide equal opportunity tool kits. Funding levels for research are now under study to provide for new opportunities and academic careers. Of course, the issues often voiced centre on Life Balance obstacles. The current working models are not conducive to parenthood.

Dr. Löwe provided a presentation on the University of Zurich and the importance to define priorities towards structural and not just cultural and unconscious bias. UZH was founded in 1833 and the first woman to hold a PhD in medicine was in 1864. Today the university has 57.01% female students. Progress of female professors is slow but increasing. She discussed the UZH Gender Equality Action Plan 2013 – 2016 indicating measures to reach goals for more women in positions of professorship or leadership roles. The new Action Plan 2017 – 2020 has three main projects:

Project 1: Open, transparent and merit-based recruitment of researchers

Project 2: Research funding and academic careers

Project 3: New organisational models for part-time management positions at UZH.


What are some other measures needed to do to gain more global influence? Show best practices between universities (statistics) and introduce day care centres. On a legal basis, the Charta document lays down the recognition and need to reach compatibility between family responsibilities and academia.

Dr. Christiane Löwe invited us to the tower of the University which, in addition to a lovely lunch offered a beautiful view over the city, its lake and mountains.



Kunsthaus, Zurich, a cultural visit toone of Zurich’s major art museums offered an impressive collection with many Swiss artists such as Hodler, Segantini and Alberto Giacometti’s statues. Then of course the sheer delight to see the works of several masters such as Monet, Van Gogh, Degas, Cézanne, Picasso, Dali and Magritte.


A short stroll through the gardens of Villa Tobler located in the old town revealed a dragon fountain with a gold coloured mosaic. Just next to this Villa was our final meeting for the day.


Meeting with members of the Zurich branch and other branches of Switzerland.

Participants: Dr. Maria Bühler, Dr. Karoline Dorsch-Häsler, Prof. Doris Edel, Lisa Hierlemann-Aebi, Andrea Linsmayer, Dr. Claudia De Morsier, Prof. Ana Celia Mota, Verena Müller, Angelika Spanke, all from Zurich; Prof. Sheila Buemi-Moore and Katharina Strub from Geneva.

Susan A. Peter introduced the meeting with her presentation “A day in the life of the Zurich Violetta Women’s Refuge”. Susan A. Peter is manager of the Foundation of Zurich Women’s Shelter (Violetta Haus) founded in 1980. It is a crisis intervention centre that fights against domestic violence and human trafficking 24 hours a day, 365 days per year. Switzerland has 15 women shelters and all are financed through private funding. State-run women shelters do not exist nor does a State-wide strategy to combat violence. Development has nevertheless advanced by securing international agreements, such as the European Convention on Human Rights as well as developments within the Penal Code, Civil Code and other legislation in Zurich. Statistics from different sources such as the UN or the WHO publish reports showing that 35%, i.e. one of three women falls victim to physical violence in all social classes, nationalities and age groups. Unreported cases are still high but progress has been made to eliminate the taboos.

The shelter offers, inter alia, 24 beds, high security standards, psycho-social and juridical assistance and socio-pedagogical support for children.

The raison d’être of women’s shelters is multiple: escalation of violence, the abuser wasn’t seized, there is a threat that additional people might resort to violence, laws aren’t effective as protection, the hazard potential is high, the woman needs comprehensive support, forced marriage and human trafficking. The risk factors for women and their children include traumas, addictions, poverty, isolation, dominant behaviour, among others.

Most women stay on average 21 days. Three out of 5 are mothers with children usually between two to five years old. 35% of the women are Swiss and 65% are of other nationalities. Approximately one third return to the Women’s Shelter.

Once the women leave the centre they remain in contact and the centre continues its support. Depending on the situation at hand it may be social, psychological or legal.

The end goal for each person is to leave the shelter strengthened, resilient with a life free of violence. The effects of domestic violence can impair the ability for empathy and later on become an abuser. The damage costs are not only financial but also social. It is not violence that will improve situations but civic commitment and daring to resist.


Our next topic turns us to our own Associations – An Introduction on the work and functioning of TAUW and SVA.

Professor Gaye Erbatur, President of TAUW explained that TAUW was established in 1949 and has 24 branches comprising of a total of 1,100 members. Ataturk was the first President of the Republic of Turkey, a democratic, secular, parliamentary republic with a diverse cultural heritage. Our civil code is based on that of Switzerland. What are we doing to empower women?

Education is a tool against violence. The major obstacles women face in Turkey concern violence and lack of presence at decision-making levels. Child marriages also hinder education for about one third of girls under 17 years old. On the one hand women need to think big and not cut themselves back so that they fit their career into their family. On the other hand, society is not conducive to help fulfil their roles. Frequently women must rely on grandparents for child care during their studies. Either day care is too expensive or it does not exist. TAUW plays an active role promoting education for girls and women. Those women who are retired can support the cause and they are very helpful. Of course, younger members are needed. The President, who was first elected in 2014, investigated that the average age of members was 56.

Scholarships are promoted through TAUW for students not just on a pecuniary basis but also to develop friendship. Some branches raise funds for mentoring. When these students graduate, we ask them to mentor younger members. Other branches of TAUW promote human rights and with the current changes in government women are actively working to maintain and promote their rights. Turkey has changed its constitution and the impact on new legislation, human rights and the judicial system is not beneficial to women.

Joint project with the European Union: Our branches obtain project funding to enhance skills for women in different areas, be it jewellery, marketing or even opening a kindergarten. Our members are helping to train and encourage them.

On a human rights level, we are taking positions with other NGOs against governmental decisions so we are working actively for fear of losing our rights. Abortion laws are changing, honour crimes and murders of women are increasing. The judicial system has become worse as the President appoints all judges in the Supreme Court. This is new. There is a direct connection between women’s rights and modernity and development. It is important for women to remain active citizens and claim their rights through education.

Regarding university studies, it is interesting to note that in contrast to Europe, the academic studies women pursue in Turkey concentrate in the field of sciences.


Dr. Karoline Dorsch, President of the Zurich Association, explained that the SVA has about 650 members and 9 sections but its membership has aged considerably. The average age has been calculated at 70 years. The SVA’s main goal is to promote equality both academically and professionally. The Association participates in the Equal Pay Day initiative and this year’s special topic is women and STEM (Science, Technology, Engineering and Mathematics), aiming to encourage more women to study in these fields. It also develops its own fund raising to support projects aimed at the education of girls. Cultural meetings are appreciated as well as formal meetings organized by Graduate Women International (GWI), the University Women of Europe (UWE) and the annual informal DACH meeting of the German-speaking NFAs (Germany, Austria and CH).

The main concerns facing our associations point to membership and involvement. The Zurich Association has 120 members but only 20 to 30 members actively participate. We would want members to be more active but this is difficult given the age factor (most of them are grandmothers). We clearly need younger members and are working on that. Dr. Dorsch proposed to organize a brainstorming session on the issue.


Day 3

Visit of a primary school.

Our delegation was greeted by the Principal and teaching staff. The atmosphere was relaxed but busy. In Switzerland the educational system is a government responsibility, both cantonal and federal. School is compulsory for eleven years. The primary cycle lasts eight years, including two years of kindergarten and the lower secondary cycle lasts between three to four years. The post-compulsory education begins with gymnasium or vocational education and training apprenticeship which is an additional three to four years. The tertiary level of the Swiss educational system can be completed at universities or at higher professional or education training institutions.

At this primary school, the children first learn sounds and then how to read them. Each class holds roughly 20 pupils and 30% are foreigners. The school integrates special needs.

During a visit of the classrooms it was noticed that the pupils are often seated in circles and choose their own places. All children actively participate. The main issues teachers initially face are not gender specific but related to agitation. The gender roles become decisive around the age of eight or nine and work for improvement is essential but complex.




Final Dinner.

Dr. Karoline Dorsch invites our Turkish members to her home to relax or take a swim in Lake Zurich. A wonderful Turkish dinner was prepared, thanks to our Turkish members and a Turkish friend of theirs living in Zurich.


We finish our exchange in Switzerland on a positive note. Of course, we have already identified room for improvements but we encourage future meetings on an international level to develop cooperation and human rights that are seriously challenged in today’s rising violence.


On behalf of SVA it is with great pleasure to thank the TAUW delegation for their visit, to learn about their active work to eliminate discrimination and to contribute towards gender equality through education. We appreciated their reflexions and questions about the Swiss model and learned about theirs. Last but not least we express our appreciation of their unflagging, generous and treasured friendship.


Sheila Buemi-Moore

SVA Member of the Commission for International Relations

Istanbul – 31st Triennial Conference,  16–21 August 2013

Eine Delegation von 10 Mitgliedern des SVA, darunter 4 Delegierte, nahm an der alle drei Jahren stattfindenden Konferenz des IFUW in Istanbul teil. Als neue Weltpräsidentin wurde Catherine Bell aus Südafrika gewählt. Zu unserer grossen Freude sind wir neu im Vorstand des IFUW vertreten durch Elsbeth von Navarini, die als Kassiererin des IFUW gewählt wurde. Eine eminent wichtige Frage für die Verwaltung des in finanziellen Schwierigkeiten stehenden Verbandes, musste gelöst werden: die Versammlung entschied sich gegen ein «Outsourcing» und für die Weiterführung des personalisierten Büros in Genf.
Verena Welti, Präsidentin

Bericht aus Istanbul von Anita von Arx, Präsidentin der Kommission für internationale Beziehungen des SVA: PDF 298 KB

Workshop über die Vereinbarkeit von Familie und Beruf, Bericht von Verena Welti, Präsidentin: PDF 100 KB

Workshop des SVA in Istanbul: Zur Vereinbarkeit von Beruf und Familie

2010 wurde an der Versammlung des internationalen Verbandes IFUW in Mexico eine Resolution verabschiedet, die vom SVA vorgeschlagen worden war und ein aktuelles Problem von jungen Akademikerinnen betrifft. Als Vorbereitung  der nächsten IFUW Konferenz in Istanbul 2013 wurde eine Umfrage in den 9 Sektionen des SVA gemacht. Die Resultate widerspiegeln lediglich die Wahrnehmung der Problematik in unserem Verband ohne Anspruch auf eine wissenschaftliche Untersuchung.

Die Zusammenfassung der von den Sektionen zusammengestellten Antworten oder der Links auf kantonale Informationen wurde von der Sekretärin des SVA, Livia Boscardin als Powerpoint-Präsentation  erstellt. Wir danken ihr für die effiziente Arbeit (PDF 494 KB).

Verena Welti, Präsidentin

SVA extra gross Bern Mittel Genève gross Fribourg klein Graubünden gross Solothurn mittel