Does Davos Really Matter For Women?
11:30 am, January 30th | by Sarah Devlin
Global power-conference Davos ended this past Sunday (Charlize was there! Plus a whole bunch of other important and powerful women). The conference, while nominally dedicated to focusing on global economic issues, is also seen by many as an opportunity to track changes in the serious gender imbalance at the top levels of most of the world’s corporations.
Some of the statistics were disheartening — the number of women invited to the World Economic Forum stayed at 17%, where it was one year ago. As attendee Christine Lagarde pointed out, this is very much at odds with some other important numbers: “50 percent of cars, 50 percent of computers, and 85 percent of consumer goods are bought by women,” she said. “It’s not a claim. It’s just the market.” To continue to thrive and prosper, she said, all countries must figure out ways to make the workforce and educational systems more open to women.”
But the news wasn’t all bad. Bloomberg TV anchor Francine Lacqua, who has covered Davos on her show “On the Move” for several years, noted that the conference presented an opportunity to revisit the question of quotas for executive boards, as one way of bringing the gender ratio at the top economic tier into balance. EU justice commissioner Viviane Reding, who originally proposed the idea of quotas, was able to revisit the question of their efficacy with Lacqua at the WEF.
In addition to more discussion of women’s issues, Lacqua noted that her time as a financial reporter has revealed the importance of addressing widespread youth unemployment, which has been an enormous problem in the United States and abroad, affecting both young women and men over the past few years. This issue was also brought to the fore at the WEF.
Ultimately, did Lacqua see Davos as an effective tool for change, or a glorified networking event? Definitely not the latter, she said; Davos has consistently been a forum “for the exchange of ideas.” While change for women may be slow, their interests are gaining increasing representation on the global stage. It’s certainly a start.