The Promise of Davos: World Economic Forum Shines on Women's Leadership

It was the best of times and also business as usual times.For the first time in 48 years of the World Economic Forum, held in Davos, Switzerland, 100 percent of the chairs of the summit were powerful women from across the globe.Introducing the summit’s theme, “Creating a Shared Future in a Fractured World,were summit co-chairs Sharan Burrow, General Secretary, International Trade Union Confederation of Belgium; Fabiola Gianotti, Director-General, European Organization for Nuclear Research of Geneva; Isabelle Kocher, Chief Executive Officer, ENGIE, France; Christine Lagarde, Managing Director, International Monetary Fund of Washington DC; Ginni Rometty, Chairman, President and Chief Executive Officer, IBM Corporation, USA; Chetna Sinha, Founder and Chair, Mann Deshi Foundation, India; and Erna Solberg, Prime Minister of Norway.[bctt tweet=“For the first time in 48 years of the #WorldEconomicForum, held in Davos, Switzerland, 100% of the chairs of the summit were powerful women from across the globe.” username=“takeleadwomen”]Yet while the meeting also held its highest number of female participants ever—at more than 21 percent— 79 percent of the attendees were male. There was again this year, The Equality Lounge.More than 150 events, keynotes, panels and presentations including ones on gender equity in the workplace, health, education and leadership for women filled the five-day convening of world leaders in policy, government, science, business and the arts.Here are some highlights of the WEF that focused on women, leadership, power and the workplace:The WEF released a report, “Towards a Reskilling Revolution: A Future of Jobs for All,” stating that “1.4 million U.S. jobs alone are expected to disrupted by technology and other factors between now and 2026, of which 57 percent belong to women.”[bctt tweet=“While the #WorldEconomicForum held its highest number of female participants ever—at more than 21%—79% of the attendees were male.” username=“takeleadwomen”]Related: Take The Lead’s Davos Coverage in 2017. Justin Trudeau, Prime Minister of Canada, implored that it is now time to put women first. “I’m talking about hiring, promoting and retaining more women.  Not because it’s the right thing to do, or the nice thing to do, but because it’s the smart thing to do,” Trudeau said.“As corporate leaders, consider a gender-balanced board, or gender-balanced project teams,” Trudeau said, according to the WEF. “We need to be accountable for our efforts in an open and transparent way. In fact, we are in the process of passing legislation that would require federally incorporated companies to disclose information about their diversity policies. For example, this would include the proportion of women on their boards and senior management.““We are walking the walk—looking for progress in women’s role in the economy, their impact on growth and the contribution to company performance and stability,” Lagarde said.“I know that investing in women and investing through a gender lens can make a huge difference. There’s a $300 billion market opportunity out there and companies and individuals that prioritize putting their money behind women and people of color can make a huge difference,” Kathy Calvin, president and CEO of UN Foundation.“Scientific knowledge has no passport, no gender and no political party,” said CERN Director General Fabiola Gianotti, according to the WEF.Microsoft’s Peggy Johnson said: “When #MeToo came out, my friends said it should be called #WhoHasn’t?” She added, With more women in power, things are beginning to change.”More news from women leaders at Davos on gender equity.Jennifer Morgan, the executive director of Greenpeace International, said, “I’m really excited for those women who are leading us this year. And I hope that it’s just the beginning and we’re going to have more women in boardrooms, more women leaders and equal pay among many other things. So let’s make it that,” according to Money Control.“Men negotiate salaries from the start. Women start by negotiating on flexibility and stop before negotiating on compensation. We are realizing we need to sometimes start with higher offers for women to get to equal pay,” said Barri Rafferty, CEO of Ketchum Public Relations.“We need to make sure that women’s voices are heard. That women do have equal rights. That they are in the workforce in equal numbers and the wave of violence against women is in fact eliminated,” said Sharan Burrow is the Secretary-General of the International Trade Union Confederation.Related: See Take The Lead’s Davos coverage in 2016.Nobel Peace prize winner Malala Yousafzai said, “First we wanted men to do something for us. But that time is gone now. We’re not going to ask men to change the world. We’re going to do it ourselves.“Pat Milligan, global leader of multinational client services at Mercer, said, “What has really changed is women’s voices are stronger and much louder.”Cathy Bessant, Bank of America’s Chief Operations and Technology Officer, said: “The topic of women in tech has been a critical one for years. Unfortunately, our progress has slowed rather than improved. We have 50 percent fewer women in the STEM disciplines than we did 30 years ago. The solution certainly requires changes in the workplace, particularly in the way we coach, develop and evaluate people. It’s absolutely critical that the industry continues to invest that kind of effort, particularly in areas such as tech where women are underrepresented. And to really move the needle, there needs to be a sustained effort at scale to engage young women and girls in STEM well before they’re ready to enter the workforce.”CNBC reported, “WEF noted that the gender pay pap was deteriorating and that ‘given the continued widening of the economic gender gap, it will now not be closed for another 217 years.’”.Minouche Shafik, director of the London School of Economics and a WEF contributor, told CNBC, “There are still many places where women are paid differently for equal work at the same level (as men) and every decent organization should look at itself and make sure everyone’s being paid equally. That’s a minimum that everyone should be able to do immediately. Then the longer-term issue is about getting more women to a senior level.“We will close with this from Jack Ma, executive chairman, Alibaba, where 37 percent of senior management are women: “If you want your company to operate with wisdom, with care, then women are the best.”Like what you see? Sign up for more and receive the Take The Lead newsletter every week.