(Bloomberg) -- A Zurich guild founded in 1336 with a membership roster that includes members of the Swiss elite is considering whether to admit women.
The Zunft zur Meisen, with a Baroque city palace in the heart of Switzerland’s banking hub, may decide at its annual meeting next year to allow women to attend its events as guests, according to a report in the Neue Zuercher Zeitung.
A working group of the city’s biggest guild is examining the option of letting women become members at some point in the future, NZZ reported. Like its peers, the Zunft zur Meisen doesn’t publish a membership list, and its website doesn’t say who is eligible to join.
While Zurich’s 26 guilds have lost their original purpose of representing tradesmen, they’re still popular for professional networking. Each spring they stage a parade that culminates in a bonfire by the city’s lake.
The ban on women meant that lots of interesting people were being kept out, Konstantin von Schulthess -- a Meisen representative and the chief financial officer of cancer research company CDR-Life Inc. -- told NZZ. Guildsmen will have until January to submit their feedback.
The Zunft zur Meisen didn’t immediately respond to a request for comment when contacted by Bloomberg via email.
When it comes to women’s role in public life, Switzerland has often lagged its European neighbors. On a national level, women didn’t get the right to vote until 1971 and the first female member of the central bank’s rate-setting council was appointed only in 2015.
The exclusion of women from guilds is controversial among the Swiss. An opinion piece in newspaper Tages-Anzeiger on Thursday said the men-only rule was out of step with the times.
“It does seem strange when columns of men parade through the streets of a globalized city in the 21st century and women throw flowers at them,” it said. “By insisting on continuing without women, the guilds are removing themselves from societal reality.”
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