The delegation’s story

October 1986

Three women’s groups (Femmes Féminisme Recherche, Association genevoise des femmes universitaires and Association genevoise des droits de la femme) submitted a report on the position of female lecturers at the University of Geneva to the Rector and to the Head of the Department of Education.

December 1986

Representatives from the three groups attended a meeting with the Head of the Department of Education, who suggested looking into the possibility of introducing quotas for women, particularly for non-professorial academic staff.

January 1987

The rectorate published a document in which it set out its response to the report.

April 1987

The rectorate met members of the three groups to discuss the issue.

December 1987

The Cantonal Parliament’s University commission interviewed the three groups to get their opinions on adding ‘with a fair proportion of women’ to the section of the University Act regarding hiring research and teaching associates.

The University Council — made up of representatives of the professorial, non-professorial academic, administrative and technical staff, and student representatives — created a working group on the promotion of women at the University, chaired by Patricia Schulz.

November 1988

The University Council unanimously adopted the working group’s report in a motion to the rectorate. It proposed a system of quotas linked to the University’s four-year plan. The aim was for women to make up 40% of the workforce over a period of 32 years, i.e. eight four-year plans.

February 1989

The College of Rectors and Deans interviewed two representatives of the women’s groups, who argued that concrete measures to promote women at the University needed to be introduced.

21 March 1989

Six members of the Cantonal Parliament (from the liberal, socialist, Christian democrat, radical, labour and green parties) submitted a draft law to amend the University Act (PL6313), proposing a similar quota system to the one adopted by the University Council in November 1988.

April 1989

The Geneva Cantonal Parliament rejected the draft law and sent it back to the University commission for further deliberation.

June 1989

The University Senate (i.e. the whole of the professorial staff) came out in favour of equality at the University, but against quotas.

June 1989

The Cantonal Parliament’s University commission questioned the rectorate in a closed hearing.

March 1990

In a letter, the rectorate announced the creation of a ‘small working group of professors to develop concrete proposals designed to effectively improve women’s advancement at the University’.

March – June 1990

The Cantonal Parliament’s University commission continued to review PL 6313 and interviewed various bodies, organisations and associations.

6 June 1990

Equality was a hot topic at the Dies academicus, during which Martine Chaponnière made a speech. Little girls handed out a pink pamphlet at the entrance, entitled Spot the Woman. A leaflet denouncing various myths about quotas in an amusing manner (alarmist, egalitarian, debonair, paternalist or misogynistic myths) was also widely distributed.

July 1990

The rectorate made public the draft law that it would present to the Cantonal Parliament’s University commission. Neither the women’s groups nor the University Council’s working group were involved in drafting this document, despite repeated requests to be included.

31 October 1990

An evening of discussion was organised on the topic ‘Quotas to make equality a reality’.

July 1991

A new Article 3A on ‘gender equality’ was included in the University Act (1973) advocating, among other things, positive measures to help the underrepresented sex and ensure equal representation of the two genders.


Anne-Lise Head, a full professor in social and economic history, became the University’s delegate for women’s issues. She was relieved of two hours of classes per week to fulfil this task.


The rectorate’s equality commission set to work, and the faculty equality commissions were formally created (1992–1996).

July 1996

A report entitled ‘Equal opportunities for men and women at the University of Geneva’ (1992–1996) was written by the delegate on women’s issues and approved by the rectorate’s equality commission in September of the same year. It served as a response to the Cantonal Parliament’s motion 951 relating to equality between men and women at the University. In this report, the delegate – who was stepping down – indicated that a delegation on women’s issues should be put in place to follow all the appointment panels.


The delegation was formed – with five professors and an equality delegate responsible for the office for women’s issues – and set to work. The first federal equal opportunities programme, launched in 2000, made it possible to fund time off from teaching commitments for delegation members, whose task was very time-consuming. A full-time equality delegate was then appointed, to organise the delegation’s work.


A Gender Studies course was established within the Faculty of Economic and Social Sciences, with a Master’s in Gender Studies following three years later.

December 2003

The second report on ‘Equal opportunities for men and women at the University of Geneva’ (1997–2002) was published.

October 2005

The delegation on women’s issues set out six incentive measures for young women at the University: creating tenure-track posts at the assistant professor level; requiring that one in four professors hired is a woman; setting up a commission for young female staff at the faculty level; applying the criteria published by the delegation during the appointment procedure; offering a series of inter-faculty lectures to explain academic careers to students; restructuring the office for women’s issues; and allowing women to use their maiden names when publishing.

May 2008

The third report on ‘Equal opportunities for men and women at the University of Geneva’ (2003–2006) was published.

March 2009

The new University Act and the new Personnel Regulations entered into force.

January 2010

A letter was sent to the Deans requiring that women make up 30% of appointment panels’ shortlists when hiring professors. This letter was sent a second time in 2012.

July 2012

The rectorate stressed the need to systematically apply Article 99 of the Personnel Regulations, which sets out all the criteria to be taken into account when considering an application, to ensure that applications by men and women are handled fairly and transparently.


The political framework in favour of equality was set out in the University Act, the University Statutes, the University Personnel Regulations, the University Strategic Plan and the Agreement on Objectives.

The delegation membership was changed so that it is now made up of five professors from the University of Geneva, the director of the Equality Office and the project manager, and chaired by a member of the rectorate responsible for equality. It became a requirement for a delegation member to be involved in all appointment procedures open to public applications for the positions of assistant professor, associate professor and full professor.