This year’s World Economic Forum (WEF) in Davos, Switzerland had an appropriately themed meeting for our time — The Reshaping of Our World: Consequences for Society, Politics and Business. With each new year, our world continues to change due to political, economic, social, and technological forces that are hugely important to analyze through an intersectional lens. The WEF hoped to do just that — bringing together 2,500 delegates to speak about how these issues can best be discussed and tackled in our global economy.
With women’s leadership on the rise, the statistics for women representation at WEF were dismal. According to a report published by Bloomberg News, only 16 percent of the 2,500 delegates to participate in the WEF conference were women. In addition, discussions of gender parity were limited to 6 out of the 250 sessions (though, this was seen as an improvement).
Though women’s leadership continues to improve, it is doing so at a glacial pace. The lack of women representation at WEF mirrors the lack of women’s leadership both within our own borders in the US and around the world. Currently, women are independent directors at companies in the U.S. Standard & 500 Index at just 17 percent, not showing much improvement from the 16 percent in 2007.
If we intend to reshape our future for what is ahead, it is imperative that women are involved in the conversation. Sheryl Sandberg, COO of Facebook and founder of www.LeanIn.org, was in attendance at WEF, presenting alongside Christine Lagarde, head of the International Monetary Fund, with a session titled, “Gender-Driven Growth”. This session took place as a final event, after most attendees had left the conference.
Giving women leadership roles and, even more importantly, a platform to speak and be heard, is crucial. As stated by Sheryl Sandberg in her essay “When Women Thrive, Our Nation Thrives” featured in the Shriver Report, “By adding more female voices at the top levels of companies, institutions, and government, we will extend fairer treatment to all.”
While it is hugely important that women’s conferences, publications, and organizations exist to foster a strong female community, women’s voices must be heard in equal representation as their male counterparts at events like the World Economic Forum. Without this, the likelihood of women in leadership positions improving at a higher rate is unlikely.
Emily Kindschy is the Research and Development intern for Spring 2014. She is a soon-to-be graduate of Lesley University and hopeful candidate for an MSW. She hopes to use her background and future education to better the lives of women and girls across the world through direct service work and policy.