There Are (A Few) Other Women At Davos Besides Charlize Theron
12:45 pm, January 24th | by Meredith Lepore
The number of women invited to Davos, the famous conference of the world’s biggest business and political elites, has always been a bit of a sore spot. Despite a new quota which requires that the biggest companies send at least one woman for every four men, the percentage of women attending the World Economic Forum (WEF) is at 17% for the second year in a row. Check out this awesome graphic from Quartz to understand how hard it will be to find women at Davos. Of course, it is hard to get female leaders at the extremely expensive and hard-to-reach conference when there are so few female CEOs (only 4% of Fortune 500 companies are led by women, to give you some context.) But there is a woman getting a lot of attention at Davos this year. Is it Christine Lagarde, director of the IMF? No. Is it Sheryl Sandberg, the COO of Facebook? Of course not. It’s Charlize Theron, duh.
To be fair, Charlize Theron is not your typical Hollywood starlet. She is ridiculously beautiful, a single mother, an Academy Award winner and now she is lending her celebrity to help halt the AIDS epidemic. The Charlize Theron Africa Outreach Project finances programs designed to prevent the spread of H.I.V. among young Africans, particularly in South Africa, which has 5.9 million infected people, Theron said, “I decided the best thing you can do with that spotlight is to stand in the shadow of something and shed some light,” she said. Charlize and two documentary filmmakers received awards for their humanitarian work as the World Economic Forum opened in Davos this Tuesday. “There is an incredible brain trust in this room,” she said, referring to the Davos participants. “I feel like I’m getting smarter just by osmosis.”
Charlize is doing excellent work but her celebrity status is certainly overshadowing the other women that are there doing important work like Lagarde, Sandberg, Marissa Mayer, Egyptian peace activist Dalia Ziada, Ngozi Okonjo-Iweala, the finance minister of Nigeria, Pakistani-Canadian documentary filmmaker Sharmeen Obaid-Chinoy and DuPont CEO Ellen Kullman, to name a few. Credit Suisse actually partnered with Newsweek & The Daily Beast’s to throw a Davos event focused on women’s leadership. At the dinner Christine LaGarde said “Here are some 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.
This is not to say that Charlize’s work isn’t extremely wonderful and all celebrities should try to follow her, but let’s try to remember it’s not just celebrities who are changing the world.