Mayor Salerno strives for a Geneva that lives for its inhabitants

Monday, December 9, 2013
“I have always worked to make Geneva a better city, open to the world and respectful of all its inhabitants, independently of their origin, their gender or their sexual orientation” says Sandrine Salerno, Mayor of Geneva. She has been in Swiss politics for almost two decades now and is the 4th woman who holds this title in the city.  
A long time campaigner for better wages and working conditions as well as maternity and paternity rights in the city, Salerno speaks to Kaos GL Magazine’s “Local elections and politics” edition about her crucial path to make this province a more giving and livable place. Enjoy this inspiring interview!
You are actually holding the office for the second time, first one being between 2010-2011. One of the outstanding things you have done was to introduce better working conditions and wages for staff. You said you hope this will have a “ripple effect on the private sector”. Do you have an agenda for the LGBT workers?
Yes, we do. We are currently analyzing our Human Resources management system to ensure it is not discriminating against our LGBT collaborators.
We also have launched an awareness campaign on these issues through our in-house training program. We will present what we are implementing during the next “Congress Against Homophobia” organized by the LGBT organizations in November 2014.
You are one of the very few women who held the title of Mayor of Geneva. To be precise, you are the 4th women. You are also a longtime campaigner for maternity rights and more visibility for women in politics. Could you perhaps tell us very shortly about this crucial struggle?
Increasing women’s participation in politics, as well as their access to top-level positions in the economical field, is still a crucial question in Switzerland, even though we’ve been talking about it for a long time.
In Geneva, for example, we have difficulties increasing women’s representation above 25% in the parliament, as the recent elections have shown us. As a woman involved in politics, and moreover at an executive position, I am well aware of the issues women can be facing when entering in this field among others such as the difficulty to combine private, professional and political lives or a political environment that is not always "women-friendly". We therefore need to reinforce our actions not only to encourage women to get involved in politics but also to create an environment that will allow them to do it in good conditions.
On the other side of your question, the maternity rights, we are working at the level of the city administration on reinforcing maternity rights for our staff. Therefore, the city offers a 20-weeks maternity leave to its employees and rules are protecting pregnant women at their workplace and adjusting their working conditions during pregnancy. We also introduced a 4 weeks paternity leave to allow men to get more involved in their family life.
There are a few terminologies that are still being developed such as “LGBT friendly city”, “women friendly city”… How would you describe Geneva for us? The Geneva you have in mind and wish to see?
I consider sustainable development in all its aspects, not only environmental but also economic and social. I have always worked to make Geneva a better city, open to the world and respectful of all its inhabitants, independently of their origin, their gender or their sexual orientation. This commitment is regularly attacked by those who have a selfish and old-fashioned view of what this city should be, but that just comforts me in my beliefs.  
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