Anne-Claude Demierre

Anne-Claude Demierre is president of the State Council of Canton Fribourg and has headed the Department of Health and Social Affairs since 2006. Prior to her election to the State Council, she acted as communal authority in La Tour-de-Trême from 1991 to 2006 and following the communal merger with Bulle she worked in diverse departments (education, social, culture, sport, and tourism). From 1996 to 2006 she was a Member of Parliament of the district of Gruyère. Before her political career, she worked as a bookseller in the Musée gruérien in Bulle and simultaneously as a clerk in accounting for an SME in the Glane district. Anne-Claude Demierre is married and mother of 3.

«Executives also want to be able to reconcile family resposibilities and their job»

How would you define good leadership today?
As a state councillor I must take responsibility and make decisions. Every day in my department I see staff who identify with their duties and work to achieve their goals. Public officials ensure that policy decisions are made, that common values take on a concrete shape, and that the various efforts are coordinated.

Administrative management is faced with the dilemma of uniting political and entrepreneurial concerns. How do you deal with this?
Government action is aimed at the entire population. We cannot limit ourselves to a specific «clientele». The social compensatory character of the state is one of Switzerland’s success factors. We have to work together with many decision-makers, whether because of the federalist structure of government (federal, cantonal, and communal), or because of the separation of powers (parliament, government, and administration). But there are many similarities between political directives and entrepreneurial requirements. For companies it is also important that beneficiaries are satisfied because they too do not have unlimited resources and must use their funds effectively. If a company wants to be successful in the long run, it must also plan long term.

The share of women at the top level of the public sector is at 20%, which is twice as high as in the private sector. To what does the public sector owe its leading role in gender diversity?
Actions speak louder than words. In Fribourg we have drawn up a «Plan for gender equality in cantonal administration». The Fribourg government integrates the gender issue in its program for the promotion of junior staff and wants to use flexible work-time models. My department is open to part-time work, even for management positions. Such a job profile makes us attractive for competent women.

Last year you appointed two new female general secretaries to share the job in the Department for Health and Social Affairs. What are the advantages of this model and where do the challenges lie?
Job-sharing requires a special fit concerning abilities like personality, communication, and teamwork. When the collaboration works, we have a win-win situation. Thanks to complementary profiles, my department has more know-how. We find more creative solutions because a greater number of ideas and opinions flow into the solutions. In addition, executives also want to be able to reconcile family responsibilities and their job.

What opportunities do jobs in the public sector offer, which are not recognized in general, but would be attractive for managers from the private sector?
Public administration offers all sorts of opportunities and challenges: meaningful tasks serving the general public, tasks of regional, supra-regional or national importance, challenging tasks in a complex political context, where it is often a matter of negotiating pragmatic solutions with partners (consensus building), a high degree of responsibility because public funds are used and the public as well as beneficiaries of public projects and the client are directly affected, and last but not least working in diverse networks with the possibility of interdisciplinary exchanges. I am convinced that many executives may find satisfaction in the public administration.