Monthly Archives: March 2015

Guest Blog by Morgane A. Ghilardi

So, I was an 18-year-old BA student, had just gotten both my first apartment – a tiny studio in a slightly scary neighborhood –, and my first real, paid job – with a slightly scarier boss. Life had suddenly gotten very serious; being fiscally responsible and self-sufficient was no longer reserved to adults.

It took me a while to adjust to the situation, as the reality of being in charge of prp_working-mom-300x300.jpgutting food on the table, paying rent, and what seemed like an unreasonable amount of bills – don’t even get me started on Billag – was completely overwhelming. Nonetheless, I remember thinking to myself that I was the third generation in a family of strong women who have always been in charge of providing not only for themselves, but also for their families.

Although that thought is a comforting reminder of the determination and strong desire for independence that runs in the family, it has also been a source of anxiety. My great-grandmother and grandmother left France to live and work in Switzerland, while my mother was born in Zurich in the 1960s. In spite of speaking two of the national languages, all of them faced adversity for being foreigners.

And of course, they all experienced a Switzerland in which women were still expected to adhere to traditional gender roles, even after being granted the right to vote and access to the political sphere on a federal level in 1971. All of them had to work hard with less (if any) chances of promotion and lower wages than their male equals, while also providing for the family.

Husbands and fathers were not a constant in that equation – though not always by choice –, which is why I always saw these women’s autonomy as an extraordinary achievement considering the context of Swiss culture. However, I am also very aware that life has been neither easy nor fair to them. How does my life compare to that?

Now 24 years old and nearing an MA degree in English and Gender Studies, I recognize both my privileged position and the challenges ahead. While I am grateful for the education and professional opportunities I’ve had so far, I still see that these are strange times for working men and women in Switzerland.

Gender roles, which are deeply connected to economic and social structures, are still being negotiated and tested; we experience that in everyday life. Stay-at-home and part-time working dads and husbands are not an accepted norm yet. In the media, we witness a discomfort towards women’s claim for equal opportunities, as it is spun into some kind of epic battle of the sexes or an attempt to drown out the voices of men who also are struggling in this fast-changing society.

Looking at both women’s past and future as providers, it is obvious that we have been navigating uncharted waters, and that won’t change for some time. But if we just keep in mind that we have the right to ask for support and acceptance, that this is a path that we tread as a collective but also as individuals, we never need to feel like we have to apologize for being overwhelmed and apprehensive at times.


Morgane A. Ghilardi, MA students at the University of Zurich & editor at Adwired AG 

Twitter: @MorganeGh

LinkedIn: Morgane A. Ghilardi


Guest post by Martijn Roseboom

Let me start off with introducing myself, I am Martijn Roseboom, 39 years old, married to ‘Bee’, father of a 6 year old girl and 4 year old boy. Since moving to Switzerland I have been a full time stay-at-home dad.

These days most people meet and get married within their social circles. This is the case for us. We met during University where I was studying business economics and my Bee was studying Medicine. I recall discussing for the first time, who would be the breadwinner, as students having some drinks in a bar. When I found out what a doctor is expected to earn and compared this to my own financial prospects, I asked Bee what she planned to do with all of her money. It seemed an awful lot for shopping. The underlying and never questioned assumption underneath was that I would be the breadwinner of the family and take care of all the bills. Bee thought that this was absolutely ridiculous. For me this was one of the core beliefs of what was expected as being a man, and never had imagined otherwise. That was the start of an interesting evening full of (alcohol fueled) heated discussions.

Since leaving University and starting work, we always have been competitive (me mostly) about who would earn the most. In practice we agreed that we would both bring in 50% of the income. When moving abroad for our first international assignment, I had to give up my job and we agreed to combine all our income together. As the ‘trailing spouse’ in Singapore, without a job, I could not do anything without my wife’s signature. This led to the practical situation where I ‘adopted’ my wife’s last name and this was also clearly stated on my credit card and all other bills. This was the ultimate reversal of the concept that I had as a man and being the breadwinner. All of this changed again back to ‘normal’ when I found a job in Singapore. However now that we have moved to Switzerland, I find myself in the same situation, except that this time I at least can use my own last name and can prove this with my credit card.

Whilst it is more common to see that nowadays there are more female breadwinners out there, it is something that remains frowned upon. Whilst on a family level, this is clearly the best way forward for all of us, it is still sometimes challenging. The biggest challenge is the stereotype I have that the man needs to be the breadwinner of the house. This leads to not always appreciating the opportunities it brings. The best thing is being an integral part and see the kids growing up. The only thing I miss is more men in the same situation. It remains socially frowned upon for a married man to ask another woman out for a drink. Even if it is coffee and there are kids running around all over the place. Let’s hope this will be a normal way for dad’s to spend their mornings in the future.



Martijn Roseboom, President Partner Committee International Dual Career Network (IDCN)

LinkedIn: Martijn Roseboom

Disrupting The Default: On Being a Female Breadwinner in Switzerland

by Susan Platt

When my husband and I started talking about raising a family a few years ago, he proposed to become a SAHD. He had moved from California to Switzerland to be with me and I had been the main source of income as well as the financial manager in our relationship from the get-go.

As I have always been passionate about work, this set-up suited us both and him transitioning into assuming a larger domestic role once we had a baby seemed natural. So when that little blue line on the pregnancy test hit the plus, we were pretty well prepared on the home front.

Work wise – however – the timing was less than optimal. I had just left a steady but bland employment in a large law firm to accept a position in a not-for-profit animal rights foundation and was in the first week (!) of a trial period when I found out I was expecting. Talk about bad timing… Luckily, the guys I worked for were very understanding about my pregnancy.

Although I had accepted this position at 100% when I started out, I knew that having zero family time with my baby girl during the workweek was not something I could – or wanted to – handle. So I negotiated an 80% quota with two afternoons off during the week upon my return to work and promised to come in on those days in case of emergencies. Turned out that the emergencies could wait at least half a day most of the time…

In the following years, my desire to grow professionally saw me evolve into increasingly more executive positions. However, none of those employments came with a ready-made solution for a working mother. But they did come with superiors who were willing to try out a more flexible work model when I proposed it to them.

Mind you, I had to color outside the lines and fib about my work capacity being 100% to get an interview in the first place. But I found out that once I was given an opportunity to demonstrate that a little flexibility can go a very long way, I was able to always put my family first in crucial situations and to strike a balance between spending enough time with my family and still deliver great results at work.

Our daughter is going to be 10 this summer and we have a great rapport. Over the last few years I continued to work in an 80% capacity and my husband at a 35% capacity, which has panned out really well for all us.

Did I encounter prejudice and bias for being the primary breadwinner during that time? You betcha. I still do. But I never let that anger or deter me from doing what I felt was right to be able to pursue the path that I considered healthy both for me and my family.


At one of my earliest Powerhouse Events Tabi Haller Jorden, then General Manager at Catalyst Europe, spoke about gender attitudes in the workplace. One of the participants complained about the lack of opportunities for working moms in Switzerland. They claimed, that other European countries such as Sweden and Denmark were a beacon in the dark nether world of employment seeking working moms while Swiss employers were a bunch of Neolithic troglodytes basically still clubbing their female staff over the head with their rigid and outdated work models.

Of course my inner Heidi was not amused.

Because, I think that this statement is only marginally true.

While I agree that many Swiss companies are still quite conservative in their work conditions, there are many willing to adapt. But they need Change Agents. Linchpins.

Let’s step up and disrupt the default.

Game. On.

The Take Away

  • Don’t be disheartened if the perfectly fitting job opportunity does not present itself on a silver tablet.
  • Be bold and apply for positions and companies that appeal to you and see if you can make them fit.
  • Don’t accept the status-quo as set in stone – be ready to Disrupt the Default
  • Keep on rocking


Short Bio1509888_622025937834386_1994525445_n

This a guest blog on our Female Breadwinner series by Susan Platt. She is the Managing Director of a family office (MFO) in Zurich, a reluctant blogger (, a mom, a wife, a board member of the Powerhouse Network for Women, a techie, Paleo eater and dog companion. She lives with her family in Zurich.