Vote and election
2021 marks a significant milestone in the progression of gender equality in Switzerland, being the 50th anniversary of women gaining the right to vote in Switzerland. Although this happened much later than in some other countries, it came about as a result of the Swiss system of direct democracy which meant that men had to endorse change in order for women to get the vote. This finally happened in 1971, after a previous attempt was rejected in 1959.
The successful 1971 referendum to grant voting rights to women in Switzerland also opened the door for women to fully participate in Swiss political life. The federal election held later that year was also the first in which women were allowed to run for office, with ten women being elected to the lower house of Switzerland’s parliament, the National Council, for the first time. Ruth Dreifuss became Switzerland’s first female President in 1999. Since then there have been four others and in 2010 the Swiss Federal Council reached the landmark of having more female than male members for the first time.