Women’s Day: ethical leadership is more than a slogan
By Barbara Hintermann, Secretary-General of IofC Switzerland
Thursday, 8. March 2018

Women’s Day: ethical leadership is more than a slogan 

By Barbara Hintermann, Secretary-General of IofC Switzerland

Women’s Day is not only relevant once a year. We need a 365-day commitment to women’s participation in the political, economic and social arenas. We must think gender parity and work for it  (#PressForProgress). It will not be achieved until we set our standards higher. Politicians, business leaders and ‘ordinary’ people in every corner of society need to integrate and live gender equality.

Capitalizing on our work at Initiatives of Change Switzerland to promote ethical leadership, this Women’s Day I want to emphasize respect for human dignity and women’s rights: not just as a slogan, but as an honest attitude and behaviour.

The film industry is just a window on the unacceptable treatment of women, which has gone unnoticed for so many years. Women have had to justify themselves as the victims of outrageous acts of abuse and harassment.  It began as a whisper, and as courageous women prevailed, has grown in scope and depth: from harassment to abuse and rape. Revelations have followed from politics, business, media, sport – even from humanitarian organizations, which should by the mere nature of their work be irreproachable.

I do not want to generalize. We are talking about leaders – and not only leaders – in all sectors and cultures using their position and power to abuse women. Where, when and how does it stop? What measures need to be taken?

Ethical leadership requires executives to lead by example. We must:

  • enforce gender balance in boards and at executive level in all sectors. (Women hold only 23.6% of these positions in Switzerland.)
  • define and enforce a policy of zero tolerance with clear sanctions.  
  • train leaders to question their attitudes and actions, and to commit honestly to ethical and responsible leadership.

I cannot end without mentioning my admiration for the women who dared to stand up and share their painful stories. These silence-breakers have contributed to an incredibly powerful mobilization on behalf of victims of sexual abuse, #MeToo.

Let us not block out this light, as other news overwhelms us in the coming weeks and months.  Today, we celebrate Women’s Day. Let us commit to engage sincerely in this vital aspect of creating a better world for all of us: a world where women and girls are equally integrated as actors, where ethical leadership is standard for management in all sectors, and where all interactions between women and men are ethical and respectful.


Barbara Hintermann has been Secretary General of the Foundation since March 2015. She has 20 years of experience in the humanitarian and corporate sectors, occupying diverse executive leadership and managing positions in the Middle East, Africa, South America, and Europe. She is a strong believer in people and their capacity to further develop their competences and skills, passionate about managing through people and making a difference. She is oriented towards tangible solutions.