Women Dominate the Conversation at Davos

DavosBusiness and world leaders gathered in Davos, Switzerland last week for the World Economic Forum’s annual meeting. Given that this is a meeting of many of the world’s most powerful people, you could guess that women are underrepresented at the summit, and you would be right. Women made up 18 percent of the participants at Davos this year. It’s an improvement over last year’s figure of 17 percent, but it still left a few women attendees noticing they were the odd ones out.Despite the lack of representation at Davos (or maybe because of it), bridging the leadership gender gap was one of the biggest topics on the agenda, and there was a lot of big news for women coming out of the conference. Some of our highlights:

  • Let’s get the bad news out of the way first: the World Economic Forum released a report suggesting that the global economic outlook is not great—and it’s looking worse for women. They’re predicting the global economy will lose 7.1 million jobs over the next five years, and that the losses will hit women harder than men, since women already make up a smaller percentage of the global workforce.
  • Despite that bummer, Deloitte CEO Cathy Engelbert is focusing on the positives from the conference, noting that women are better represented among younger Davos attendees: “I see women coming up in the ranks,” she said.
  • Facebook’s Sheryl Sandberg spoke about the need for more women in leadership roles and was as quotable as ever. “Men still run the world,” she told the audience, “and I’m not sure it’s going that well.”
  • The UN’s HeForShe initiative released a major new report with gender diversity figures from ten leading companies, including Barclays, McKinsey, Twitter, and Unilever. Women make up between 30 and 51 percent of the companies’ employees, and between 11 percent and 43 percent of each company’s highest-ranking employees. The full report details the steps each company is taking to improve those figures over the next decade.
  • Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau continued to say swoony things about feminism. “We shouldn’t be afraid of the word ‘feminist,’” he said on a panel. “Men and women should use it to describe themselves anytime they want.”

 Were you following the conversation at Davos last week? What were your most notable moments? Let us know in the comments!