Children in the federal building? Apart from Federal Councilor Alain Berset (pictured) and Ueli Maurer, all Federal Councilors are childless.
Camilla Alabor and Danny Schlumpf
For Tamara Funiciello (32) the matter is clear. “Young mothers are needed in the Federal Council!” says the Bernese National Councilor and President of the SP women. “This is the only way to move forward with equality.”
With this, Funiciello is fueling the debate about the successor to Simonetta Sommaruga (62). So far, all Federal Councilors were either childless – or their children were adults or teenagers.
The lack of representation in the Federal Council is bad for women, says Funiciello: “It’s no wonder that young mothers in Switzerland are still disadvantaged – at work, the division of household chores, childcare.” So far, these issues have not been at the top of the priority list in the Bundesrat. “Young mothers would be an asset to the state government because their reality is different.”
There are many suitable candidates
She receives support from SP National Councilor Samira Marti (28). “It would be good for Switzerland if mothers with small children were in the Federal Council,” says the Basel bidder. “You see abroad that it is possible to be prime minister as a young mother.”
This does not apply to Eva Herzog (60). The Councilor of States and long-standing Basel government councilor is considered a pragmatic politician – and favorite for Sommaruga’s successor. But she is definitely not a young mother: her two daughters are already grown.
Among the other potential candidates, on the other hand, there is an impressive number of young mothers. Above all, the Bernese National Councilor Flavia Wasserfallen (43). Her children are six, ten and fourteen years old. Wasserfallen regularly takes them to the football stadium, but sometimes takes them to a climate demonstration.
Until she took office as a member of the National Council, Wasserfallen and her partner shared childcare. “Now he’s definitely taking on more tasks,” she said three years ago. “Compatibility is a constant issue for many families.” Wasserfallen will decide next week at the earliest whether she wants to intervene in the debate as a federal councillor.
Bundesrat is more than a full-time job
Another candidate is Pascale Bruderer (45), former Aargau Councilor and mother of two school-age daughters. Amélie (8) wants to be a car mechanic. Her mother is happy about this break with role models. After her resignation from the Council of States, Bruderer became an entrepreneur – and said: “Federal councilors live almost exclusively for politics, I can’t imagine a life like that.” Maybe things look different now. On Tuesday, Bruderer will inform whether she intends to run for office.
The Bernese government councilor Evi Allemann (44) is also an option for the SP ticket. Her name is mentioned less often, which suits the quiet worker. The mother of two school-age children has been in charge of the Bern Department of Justice since 2018. A drawing of her daughter hangs in her office on Münstergasse. “Family ties are important to me,” Allemann told the public a few years ago. “I try very often to be at home in the evenings.” Although that will be difficult as a federal councilor, Allemann does not rule out a candidacy.
One thing is certain: the Federal Council is more than a full-time job. The working days are intense and often far from over at 7 p.m. Federal Councilors are often out and about in the evenings and at weekends.
This is exactly why the middle member of the Council of States Pirmin Bischof (63) decided against running for office six years ago. At the time, his party was looking for a successor to Federal Councilor Doris Leuthard (59). Bishop wanted to find out from Interior Minister Alain Berset (50) how he could reconcile family and work. The answer apparently put him off. Bishop came to the conclusion “that an office as Federal Councilor is out of the question for me and my family. The sacrifice would have been too great.” Instead, he became a father for the third time in the summer.
“You don’t see your family anymore”
The Appenzeller Council of States Andrea Caroni (42) – he is the father of two children – sees it similarly. As an employee of the former Federal Councilor Hans-Rudolf Merz (79), he saw how little free time the members of the state government had. “Merz used to say that he had half an hour of free time a week – on Sunday mornings,” Caroni recalls. It was therefore out of the question for him to exercise such an office with small children. “It doesn’t matter whether you’re a man or a woman: you don’t see your family anymore.”
An employee from the environment of a Federal Council disagrees. It is possible to reconcile family and office. But: “You have to be extremely well organized and set clear boundaries.” This means that you might only go to one event per week instead of three. “However, this can quickly be interpreted as a lack of commitment,” admits the insider.
But it’s not just the high workload that poses problems for parents. In the case of young mothers, there is also the fact that, as federal councillors, they violate the still widespread role model: the woman’s place is at home with the children. “The first young mother who is a federal councilor will be under extreme observation,” says sociologist Katja Rost (46). She is certain: “The accusation that she is not a good mother will come quickly.” A magistrate like that definitely needs a thick skin.
At least the problem of the workload can be solved, says SP co-president Cédric Wermuth (36). “We have to talk about how the office can be designed in such a way that a private life is possible alongside the job,” says the Aargauer. He proposes increasing the number of Federal Councilors to nine or redistributing certain departments that are very large.
Young mothers in power? It’s not a sure-fire success. Resistance comes from the SP ranks themselves. Councilor of States Daniel Jositsch (57), who has been eyeing the Federal Council office for years, feels so offended that he openly describes a purely women’s ticket as “discrimination”.
There is applause for this from SVP President Marco Chiesa (48) – Jositsch’s comrades frown on this statement.
You see the discrimination in a very different place. For young mothers, for example.