Strong Voices Interview #14: Nadine Jürgensen – COO at elleXX

We're already two months into the new year 2022 - so it's time to start with yet another inspiring StrongVoices story. For this first edition in this year we talked to Nadine Jürgensen, who is COO at elleXX, mother, lawyer and journalist. One matter close to her heart is to improve gender equality, even though the motto of elleXX is “Close the gaps”. In our interview, she tells us about the motivation to start elleXX, what she thinks needs improvement in Switzerland for a more equal society and what her personal mantra is.

 

ABOUT NADINE JÜRGENSEN:

​​As a journalist, author and presenter, Nadine has worked in recent years both as a domestic editor at the NZZ and as a freelance journalist, and has established herself as a society observer and columnist at Schweizer Monat. Now, as the co-founder of elleXX, her ambition is to close the financial gaps of women. She is also a mother of two.

"I am firmly convinced that if you do something with love then you are good at it and then recognition of what you do comes all by itself." Nadine Jürgensen

OUR QUESTIONS:

How would you describe yourself?

That’s an interesting question regardless of all the labels, I think I’m a very committed person who likes to stand up for the cause and for others. Whether it’s a scout guide, in sports or in school, I always liked to do things where I felt a purpose and was fun at the sametime.

elleXX - What do you do and what are your goals?

All three of us have been dealing with equality issues for decades and at some point we realized that we no longer just want to describe the problems - as journalists we have of course reported on them - but we wanted to be part of the solution. And for us, financial equality is just a very important part of the overall equality of women. Originally, we wanted to set up a women’s bank, but it’s all highly regulated, and then we thought we’d stick to what we're good at. We can bring women closer to a subject which is perhaps not so familiar to many: Because they do not trust it or because it has not been a women’s job for many years as the Civil LawBook did not allow women to work for themselves or to open a bank account without the permission of the man until 1987. Crazy, isn’t it? Women have a lot of financial gaps: Many work part-time and do a lot of unpaid sweeps and do housework. Women get fewer loans and in general, there are fewer women entrepreneurs out there. Also 98% of the VC capital goes to men; the women are pretty empty with 2%. The pension gap is the most well-known gap with 37%. Our desire is actually to close those gaps. We want to enrich that with elleXX. That is our slogan on all levels and yes, financial independence is a big part of it and we also want to draw attention to social issues and those where we have the feeling that they are relevant for women.

What do you think it takes - apart from the money issue - to achieve equality in Switzerland?

I think the biggest construction site is when a woman becomes a mother in Switzerland. Before that, of course, there are also wage differences, wage discrimination. That’s certainly what but when women become mothers, the whole systematic social inequality takes place. For once, there is no equal parental leave, which means the roles after the birth are simply very clearly determined by the government. The other thing is the tax situation for married couples. In Switzerland, the second income is taxed by the main earner. That means you get to a very high progression level as a married couple. Followed by the marriage penalty on top. Childcare is insanely expensive in Switzerland. Many couples where both work get no subsidy. If you are married, everything is added up from an annual income of 120,000 CHF, so you pay the full amount and get no subsidy. So for many, the job doesn't pay off! So often the women decide to stay at home to care for the children or work very low part-time. The problem is, if women stay at home for a few years, they suffer from the maternity penalty. Wages decrease insanely. The women don't get to work anymore, they will have lower and lower incomes. Less money to invest for their futures. So every woman who stays at home must be aware of the dependence she is in. It can be that the marriage or partnership does not work - this creates even larger financial gaps - and that although she has done a lot of unpaid work in the household and in raising children. Unfortunately, unpaid work has so far hardly any value in our society.

Do you have the feeling that something will happen in the near future? Something like abolishing the marriage penalty or what's your feeling?

There is a current initiative from the FDP women ongoing and I urge everyone to vote for individual taxation. It has the main purpose to achieve an individual taxation of the income that would reduce the negative incentives and also weaken the marriage penalty of course. It is very important that this comes through. Another issue is parental leave. I would very much like this to be an issue that will soon come back on the political floor. In Germany, childcare is much more subsidized and I don’t quite see why we have a school system that is fully funded by the state but the first four years are somehow privately funded. That for me are pure infrastructure problems like streets, tunnels or public transportation that should be solved.

What would you give as a tip to women who want to continue working after having a child?

Really before making the decision to have children it is best to discuss thoroughly with your partner how you want to deal with it. I am currently working on a private core agreement together with the University of St. Gallen. We want to release the template on elleXX, providing a guideline and more transparency on unpaid work. Best is of course not to give up your paid job and not work less than 70 percent - but many women work less or stay at home due to the previous reported situation. As a lawyer I consulted Article164 of the Civil Law Book and if you work at home for your family you are actually granted a reasonable amount for your efforts in housework and child care. So talk to your spouse before you stay at home. Having the conversation with your partner afterwards is much more difficult.Additionally I believe that we need to be aware of how important and valuable this work at home is. After all, it revolves around the most important thing we have - our children. So this contract template gives women a structure and orientation for the discussions with their partner. I believe those conversations benefit the relationship and the set expectation management. I hope I have some time soon to draft this for our Members at elleXX! Definitely my plan before summer break., This said, I still would really advise every woman to keep her jobs. Don’t give up your job completely and try to share family and household work equally at home from the start on. Ideally, of course, one would encourage the partner to work part-time. In case both work 70% the children only have to be looked after three days a week by someone else. This approach is better manageable and is also good, because everyone in the partnership experiences a little of both worlds: how stressful the working life can be, but also the challenges in the household with a small child, shopping, washing, or just getting them dressed in the morning and having them at time at the daycare or at school We still struggle every morning (laughs).

And then one last question about you personally, do you have any guiding principle, motto or quote after you try to live?

“Do what you love” is one of my favorite quotes. I am firmly convinced that if you do something with passion and dedication you eventually become good at it and then recognition of what you do comes all by itself. This includes very importantly fostering children's strengths even if it means that they will not follow an academic career but learn a craftsmanship or a different form of profession that might not be the ones the parents had thought out for them. Look at yourself - first you worked as a consultant and now you create wonderful bags with a purpose and space (!) for a laptop for women - and you do what you love! I love Ameli Bags and congratulate you for this amazing entrepreneurship.