The World Economic Forum's annual invitation-only meeting amidst the
snow-capped mountains of Davos, Switzerland is a chance for the world's
super-elite to network, strike deals, hobnob at black-tie dinners, and
attend conferences with earnest, high-minded themes like "Shared Norms for the New Reality."
issue: most of the people doing the deal-making and hobnobbing are men.
WEF is trying to change that for its upcoming summit by requiring
its corporate partners--who account for around a fifth of all
attendees--to have at least one of their five delegates be a
The Guardian reports that women have never made up more
than 17 percent of Davos participants, adding that women represent less
than 3 percent of chief executives for the world's largest 500
companies and occupy just over 15 percent of ministerial and
parliamentary positions. Thus, WEF can certainly make the argument that their participants are simply "a reflection of the scarcity of women in this external pool," as Saadia Zahidi, author of this new quota plan, puts it. Clearly, though, WEF is now switching its strategy.
Here's some reaction to this new policy:
- Abiding by Quota Could Be Difficult, says The Guardian's Elena Moya: "Critics may
argue that one in five is actually a pretty small achievement, and real
progress would call for two or three. Just finding one suitably senior
candidate this year, however--given the gender balance in the global
business elite--may prove enough of a challenge."
- Davos Is Making a Sincere Effort, argues Andrew Hill at The Financial Times:
Its captive elite audience of business chieftains could have disproportionate clout if they sign up to some of the innovations on gender that will be floated there. A workshop on best practices in business, organised through the Gender Parity Group (50 men and 50 women from business), could send some important messages to the boardroom. A new global standard for gender equality, being developed separately by the Gender Equality Project, also has the potential to concentrate business leaders’ minds.
- Will Davos Become More Social? wonders
Jonathan Sibun at The Telegraph. He calls the quota a "break from the
norm that will have many a Davos delegate looking forward to the
- This Makes Me Uneasy, asserts
Kirsty MacArthur of U.K.-based Heartwood Wealth Management, as quoted
by The Wall Street Journal: "I feel uncomfortable with positive
discrimination. Women should achieve success based on their own merit,
not as part of a quota."
- More Progress Needs to Be Made, states
AMERICAblog's Chris in Paris: "The banking industry was always macho
and since the crisis, it now has even fewer women in management.
Northern Europe takes the issue seriously but outside of there, few
countries (the US included) have made progress."