Go back to overview

From 1972

Management careers become more accessible

A management career at Swiss Post is now also open to women. In 1974, the first women start work at the male-dominated Railway Mail Service, which is seen as the PTT’s training ground for new managers.

Anna Nater, the first woman at the Railway Mail Service. Source: Museum of Communication

Rich Content Section

Since the founding of Swiss Post in 1849, civil service jobs have been a male-dominated preserve. Nevertheless, women hold important positions at all times, albeit with less favourable terms of employment. For a long time, most jobs at Swiss Post are clearly gender-assigned – on the basis of prevailing stereotypes. Most women work in processing roles at the counter, in the Postcheque service and in administration.

Female employees in a Postcheque office, circa 1940. Source: PTT Archive
Women employed as “helpers” in a Postcheque office, circa 1940. Source: PTT Archive

While the sub-postmaster’s wife, who is trained as an assistant, sometimes runs smaller post offices unofficially, there is as yet no such thing as an official female boss. Moreover, as “helpers”, women often do work that is similar to or the same as their male civil servant colleagues, but their pay grade is lower. The respected PTT social counselling service is also staffed predominantly by women working in particularly stressful care and support roles.

A sub-postmaster and (presumably) his wife with two female employees, at work at the post office in Hombrechtikon, circa 1910.  Source: PTT Archive
A sub-postmaster and (presumably) his wife with two female employees at the post office in Hombrechtikon, circa 1910. Source: PTT Archive

Physically demanding work, on the other hand, has long been a male preserve: until the beginning of the 1970s, women are not allowed to work as uniformed mail carriers in delivery, transshipment and dispatch services. The same applies to the Railway Mail Service, which is seen as a stepping stone to a good career – and to promotion to management positions in general. Women are the charges of men: their fathers, and later their husbands, grant them permission to work. Male managers define the criteria for hiring staff. Married women looking to continue work face resistance from men, curtailing their ability to determine their own lives and realize their career ambitions.

Women win their rightful place

In normal times, positions are reserved for male workers. In times of war or of staff shortages, however, the postal service is dependent on women, who are suddenly doing work they were not trusted to do before and after the crisis. When cost-cutting is necessary, there is also a reliance on women’s labour: with no civil servant status, female “helpers” are paid less than their male colleagues.

Two women mail carriers in Bern during the mobilization of the Second World War, 1945. Source: Museum of Communication
Women mail carriers in Bern during the mobilization of the Second World War, 1945. Source: Museum of Communication

In 1972/73, management careers become more accessible: women make inroads into male-dominated areas of the postal service, rising occasionally to management positions. In the 1990s, there is optimism in the air: the PTT begins to promote women’s careers and strive for genuine equality. This is despite the fears that some men have of losing their privileges.

Accounts from women and men formerly employed by the PTT

Source: PTT Archive, oral history platform: https://www.oralhistory-pttarchiv.ch/de/themes/vorschriftenTarget not accessible

“Door openers” at Swiss Post

  • In 1971, Claire Buner becomes the first female driver employed by Postbus. She covers the Jonschwil–Uzwil route.
  • In 1974, Anna Nater and Priska Häne start working at the Railway Mail Service.
  • In 1981, Paula Vetsch-Sarner becomes the first female head of a post office (Basel 27) in the PTT era.
  • From 2000, Elsa Baxter heads the Stamps & Philately organizational unit, reporting directly to the CEO.
  • In 2012, Susanne Ruoff is appointed CEO of Swiss Post.

Found in the PTT Archive: marriage as the end of working life

For a female switchboard operator or “helper” in a Postcheque office, marriage usually means the end of their working life. In 1922, the postal administration explains this by stating that a job held by a married woman would deprive someone else in greater need of the opportunity to earn an income. Married couples with two incomes would have achieved “an accumulation of earnings”.


PTT Archive online gallery: https://www.mfk.ch/ptt-archiv/vermittlung/galerien/jahresdossiers/Target not accessible

PTT Archive, oral history platform: https://www.oralhistory-pttarchiv.ch/de/themes/vorschriftenTarget not accessible

Walter Knobel, Swiss Post (ed.): Gelb bewegt. Die Schweizerische Post ab 1960, Bern 2011.

History of PostBus: https://www.postauto.ch/de/geschichte-von-postautoTarget not accessible

Rich Content Section