Friday, 22 January 2016

What Can We Learn About Gender From the Latest World Economic Forum in Davos?

The World Economic Forum has been taking place this week in Davos, Switzerland - I am sure you could not help but noticing.

This great gathering of all the makers and shakers Worldwide, from politicians to actors from leading scientists to rock-stars, has among other global issues discussed the theme of gender-parity...yes, that increasing hot-potato! It is remarkable actually, how much talking has been done about it. Not only have people like actress Emma Watson fronting the UN Women's HEforSHE campaign been invited to discuss and engage with the rain-makers (actually, she is now clearly one of them!) but many are openly championing the cause.  Some of the powerful messages that have been put across include:

  • The UN Secretary General stressing that it will not be possible to achieve the global sustainable development agenda unless women are put at the centre of economic empowerment
  • Globally, 2.5 women spend more time on unpaid care and domestic work than men
  • Around the world, a woman's salary is around 3/4 of a man's.
  • In the US closing the gender gap could raise GDP by 9% or more than a trillion dollars.
  • In highest performing companies, women have the same influence as men - it follows that more companies would want women in senior roles...(but it is not happening!) 
 Yet, apparently it will be another 117 or even 118 years before we obtain gender parity if we progress at this rate. So the picture remains bleak and in all honesty, it is hardly a case for celebrations.

The very same audience at Davos was predominantly male, 18% being females (1% increase from 2015). Many of those were on stage and panels debate were constructed to ensure that females would be represented. And what a representation it was....  a collection of FIRSTS as a journalist said: Dalia Grybauskaite, Lithuanian first female President, Mary Barra, first female CEO of General Motors, Elvira Nabiullina, first female Governor of the Bank of Russia...together with other well known women such as Cheryl Sandberg of Facebook, Christine Lagarde of the International Monetary Fund, scientist Fabiola Giannotti Director General of CERN, Inga Beale the first female CEO of insurance company Lloyd's of London, Meg Whiteman CEO of Hewlett Packard and the list could go on. This really is an impressive list and I cannot help but balancing some of the skepticism expressed above when looking at what women have been able to achieve against all odd:

  • Women attendees at Davos have achieved an amazing amount, sometimes despite of their being female. Across science, politics, finance, business, technology, women are now at the top of their game in contexts which until very recently were considered strictly male.  I am inspired and motivated by them and I hope that like me many other women will. They are important role models and should be showcased as such!
  • These women are ambitious, who ever said that women are not!? Undoubtedly these women have the courage to dream big and pursue their passions. They work hard but they are also not afraid to set high objectives and believe that they could achieve them. We must teach this to all our girls today!
  • These women are not worried about being under the spotlight and being vocal about gender parity. These women are not shying away from the lime-light, they did not ask a male colleague to take their place on stage. Their confidence, self-worth and courageous leadership is coming through loud and clear in their stage message, even when they are not talking about gender specifically.

For what we can see, these women are a force to be reckoned with and on that stage, at that gathering they represented all of us women out there.

So let's make them proud. Let's ensure we also vocalise our dreams and pursue our passions and teach young girls that all girls can be on that stage one day, whether at Davos or elsewhere. And maybe, just maybe, we won't need to wait 117 years.     

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