« I support the 19 demands of the feminist movement and I am deeply convinced that we must act together for this cause »
Jessica Silberman Dunant has been in charge of Human Resources (HR) at Genève Aéroport since the end of 2017. She has been working in this field for over 25 years. Born in the United States and living in Switzerland since the age of ten, she has experienced very diverse cultural environments, spending high school and part of her professional life in German-speaking Switzerland, while undertaking her studies and most of her career in French-speaking Switzerland. She mentions the cultural shock she experienced when she moved to Laufon, a village of 3,500 people, in 1976: her mother, an active and academic woman, no longer had the right to work due to the lack of a work permit! Another shock: the fridge was so small compared to American refrigerators that the family of five had to go shopping every day.
What is your relationship with feminism?
When I was young, the label made me uncomfortable. I grew up with my two brothers. My mother was a progressive woman and I found it normal to be treated equally. Equal opportunities were much more advanced in the United States then. When we moved to Switzerland, we felt like we were stepping back in time. Forty years have passed, and I personally think that things have not evolved enough, and I want to be more involved, like the women did in 1991 for my generation.
As a woman and senior executive, what do you think of the feminist strike?
I remember the strike back in 1991: the amount of people who took part and the festive atmosphere have stayed with me. There was a sort of cheerful solidarity to mark the occasion. I would like to support the movement this year in the same spirit. I am deeply convinced that we must act together and not promote discourse based on division. Genève Aéroport employees have identified diversity as one of our eight values. There is a desire to include everyone: all genders, young people, mature people, people from different origins. The richness of the people working here is also reflected in the Charter of Diversity, signed by Genève Aéroport this year.
Do you think being a feminist is an asset in a career?
There’s no need to label it, it is more a matter of common sense; respecting diversity and the contribution of gender diversity in teams improves performance and tolerance towards one another. Sometimes it takes committed people to provoke and advance a cause, like feminists.
In your opinion, are strikes an appropriate tool for advancing equality?
No, in general, I am not in favour of strikes, because it shows there has been a breakdown in social peace. In my position as HR Director, I hope never to reach that point. I prefer to listen, discuss, and find solutions together. For me, the action of striking means there has been a failure in the working environment.
What instructions have been given to Genève Aéroport employees?
The most important thing for us is to ensure that operations run smoothly for passengers. To assure this, supervisors have been asked to grant leave or reschedule shifts for people wanting to take time off.
Will you strike on 14 June?
I plan to be at the airport on 14 June, because I think I can bring more to my workplace by approaching the employees and discussing the subject with them. I may perhaps join the march at the end of the day to mark the event and bring back my memories of 1991. That said, I respect everyone's choice of what to do on 14 June and I encourage all of us to stay in our personal circles to ensure tasks are divided well and there is mutual respect.
What will happen at Genève Aéroport on 14 June?
We have created a badge inspired by one of the UN Sustainable Development Goals, gender equality, which will be made available to employees so they can show their support of the movement. A video (LINK), produced by the Communications Unit, gives the floor to employees – men and women – who share their opinion of the strike. Finally, informal visits are planned. The Director General and I will meet the employees of the platform to listen and exchange views. I would like to know what equality means to them, to discuss what they experience on a daily basis. I think this is really essential, because the actions we plan to put in place must meet current needs.
You signed the Diversity Charter last March. What are the next steps? What actions are planned in the medium and long term?
We have begun the process of having an external body certify Genève Aéroport for equal pay. We have also set ourselves the goal of ensuring gender diversity in all teams by 2022 and constantly increasing women's participation at all levels. This rate has already increased by 2.6% since 2014. We also want to increase awareness and train employees involved in recruitment, training and career management on the subject.
Equality between men and women is also related to making family and work lives fit together. Why is there no corporate nursery at Genève Aéroport?
The feasibility of such a project was studied and could have been launched in 2006, but a nursery did not meet the needs of airport companies. Indeed, I think we must think about supporting childcare with solutions more suited to people with irregular schedules (76% of employees), because they do not want to impose the same hours on their children.
Achievements of Genève Aéroport
No discrimination with regards to employment
When equally qualified people apply, women or the under-represented gender are given preference
Gender diversity is promoted in teams
- In 2004, person protection regulations were issued. They were updated in 2008 and are currently being revised.
« Regards croisés » video clip