23 Sep 2010

Women now in majority in Swiss cabinet

8:02 am on 23 September 2010

Switzerland's parliament has voted a new minister into the government, giving the cabinet a majority of women for the first time.

The BBC reports the election of Simonetta Sommaruga, 50, a Social Democrat, is an historic step.

Ms Sommaruga is the fourth female in the seven-member Federal Council.

Until recently, cabinet members were always drawn from the four leading parties.

Women in Switzerland first got to vote at local canton level in 1959, but not at federal level until 1971. The last canton, Appenzell Innerrhoden, finally granted them voting rights in 1990.

The first female government minister was elected in 1984, but until now only six women have ever held ministerial posts.

The BBC reports it is not unique in Europe for women to hold a majority in a country's cabinet.

The Spanish cabinet selected by Prime Minister Jose Luis Rodriguez Zapatero after in 2008 included more women than men.