The number of female students at Swiss universities has doubled in twenty years. This increase is accompanied by two phenomena of persisting gender inequality.
Firstly, women students are concentrated in the human and social sciences and certain specialist fields of medicine, pharmaceuticals and law. They are under-represented in the exact and technical sciences.
Secondly, although female students often outnumber male students, fewer of the former study for a doctorate (56.8% male doctoral students compared to 43.2 % female doctoral students in 2010). The proportion of women among those obtaining a doctorate in Switzerland (41.9% of PhDs in 2009) is well below the European average (45%).
The metaphor of the « leaky pipeline » (document in French) illustrates the declining participation of women as the rungs of the academic ladder are climbed. In 2011, the percentage of women professors in Switzerland in 2011 was 17.6%, while 41.6% of assistants and scientific staff were women (OFS figures).
The effect of the leaky pipeline varies according to discipline. Since there are fewer female students in the technical and exact sciences, the loss of female students is proportionally lower than in the human and social sciences.
A document from the CRUS presents detailed figures, by academic status and discipline, for the period 2002-2010.
European statistics can be consulted in the report She Figures 2009.
Despite these differences between disciplines, the doctoral and postdoctoral period remains a pivotal moment.
The fact that more and more female researchers, regardless of discipline, are successfully negotiating this stage constitutes an important issue for equal opportunities.