Geneva-Women across Switzerland have taken to the streets to protest against what they say is the country’s unacceptably slow pace to equality.

Friday’s protest comes 28 years after similar action saw half a million women take to the streets in 1991. Swiss women have long campaigned to accelerate the pace of gender equality.

They joined millions of other women in Europe after World War One ended in 1918 in demanding the right to vote - but did not get it until 1971.

At the time of the 1991 strike there were no women in the Swiss government, and there was no statutory maternity leave.

Appenzell, the last Swiss canton to refuse women the right to vote, had just been ordered to change its policy by Switzerland’s Supreme Court.

Some things have changed: there have since been eight female government ministers and the right to maternity leave is now enshrined in law. However, women in Switzerland still earn on average 20% less than men, they are under-represented in management positions, and childcare remains not only expensive, but in short supply.  Last month, a survey by the International Labour Organisation put Switzerland bottom of the list in pay rates between men and women in senior roles.

Journalist Beatrice Born, who was six months pregnant with her first child when she joined the strike back in 1991, joined the strike again on Friday.

When she returned to work following the birth of her daughter in 1991, she got something of a shock. No-one, it seemed, had expected her back, and certainly not full-time. “The resistance was huge,” she says.

A new strike was first suggested last year in response to parliament’s decision to introduce more scrutiny on equal pay. The government’s move only related to companies with more than 100 employees, a measure that women trade union leaders dismissed as virtually meaningless.

Since then, women across the country have been mobilising, using social media to take advantage of the power of the hashtag. Events were staged in many of the main cities on Friday, including Bern, Basel, Zurich, Sion, and Lausanne, where women filled the station concourse to sing a feminist hymn. In Geneva, street signs named after men were replaced with women’s names. Social media has emerged in recent years as one of the most powerful techniques for quickly raising awareness of a particular issue and mobilising people for protests and demonstrations.

Some employers have said the strike is illegal, but many big companies seem to be taking a pragmatic approach. Retail giant Migros has said it would prefer employees not to simply down tools, but has also suggested there will be no disciplinary action if they do.

Swiss Railways asked its employees to say well in advance if they planned to strike, and said it was offering commemorative T-shirts to mark