"Strong women lead to a strong society," says Carolina Müller-Möhl about the urgency of gender equality. The investor, philanthropist, and president of the Müller-Möhl Foundation, which she founded, has been promoting the visibility and thus the opportunities of working women in Switzerland for 20 years. There is no topic she has not tackled: quality childcare, an individual tax system, the changing understanding of gender roles.
She is committed to actively change things with the projects she supports and as a spokesperson for women's rights in politics and the media. We spoke with Carolina Müller-Möhl about what it means to stand up for others and what course is needed to get more women back into the workforce.
You are a philanthropist who is convinced that doing good is not primarily a matter of money, but a matter of the heart. Where does this drive to do good for others come from?
From within. I enjoy getting involved. Addressing injustice and offering support has always been my philosophy. Contributing to society as a whole, for me, is a so-called "no-brainer". And by the way, it makes me incredibly happy.
In 2012, you established the Müller-Möhl Foundation, which is primarily involved in education, the compatibility of family and career, as well as the advancement of women. Why are these issues particularly close to your heart?
At the time I established the foundation, the issues of women, equality, and the reconciliation of work and family life were particularly neglected. No foundation that I knew of was dedicated to these issues. The situation was similar to early childhood education. Today, it is becoming increasingly clear that the areas we support go hand in hand. We have proven this with a study: when parents know that their children are well supported, they feel more secure as parents. That is the most crucial basis for reconciling work and family life.
Can you tell us about a project that you particularly enjoy working on?
Something that has been close to my heart for quite some time is "Women Back to Business", a re-entry program of the University of St. Gallen, which we have been supporting for 13 years. Many women and mothers want to re-enter the workforce but feel insecure after a long absence from work. Perhaps they are not qualified enough or have planned their career too little. This is where "Women Back to Business" comes in. The return: more skilled workers, more prosperity, an increasingly equal society, and strong women.
As a woman, you hold a seat on several administrative and supervisory boards. Studies, however, show that the proportion of women on top boards worldwide is still rising slowly. Where do you see the biggest challenges?
Although the situation in Swiss companies has improved, women still rarely reach the top. There are many reasons for this. In Switzerland, for example, the joint taxation of married couples creates negative incentives for many second earners - mostly women - to work. Daycare is too expensive, and all-day schools cannot be found everywhere in this country. The OECD experts agree that individual taxation would provide a remedy. In addition, affordable and high-quality external childcare and all-day schools throughout Switzerland. Finally, a change in the understanding of roles with a balanced distribution of family duties for both partners.
What advice would you give your younger self, or current graduates, regarding their careers?
Be brave and, above all, keep your eye on the ball. Balancing work and career, family, social commitment and free time is exhausting, but doable and it pays off. Create an environment that supports you, starting with the partner at your side.
What role does courage play in your job and how has it helped you get to where you are today?
Courage is essential, as is confidence in one's own abilities. Sometimes taking unconventional paths, questioning things critically, standing up for something even when the wind blows in the other direction. That takes a lot of energy, but you can always look at yourself in the mirror.