Davos: It Does Not Seem Much Like Leadership (If You Don't Include Women)

Jan 17 2014, 4:31pm CST | by

Davos: It Does Not Seem Much Like Leadership (If You Don't Include Women)

Get ready. It’s time for that annual ritual of global leadership – the World Economic Forum (WEF) at Davos in Switzerland. The WEF is “an independent international organization committed to improving the state of the world by engaging business, political,

academic and other leaders of society to shape global, regional and industry agendas.” It resounds. ‘Committed to improving the state of the world.’ Wow.

But there is a problem. WEF at Davos has more than 2000 delegates, and only one in seven is female, at the last tally made by the Financial Times.

How can you improve the state of the world if 50% of the world is unrepresented in the discussion?

Here is the man in charge at Davos, Professor Klaus Schwab, talking about his mission. This year, the agenda at Davos focuses very importantly first on income inequality, then on the other pressing global risks.

Nowhere, it seems, is the risk of not doing enough to include women in the processes of income generation, decision making and responsibility for better societies.

“There has been a feeling this year that Davos delegates are waking up to the fact that women getting a better deal out of the global economy is good for business.” writes a woman in The Daily Telegraph, one of the UK’s national papers in a seeming apologia for attending. But if waking up is at the pace of change among non-executive directors in Europe’s boardrooms it is a very slow awakening, as is clear from this report from global management consultancy Hay Group.

It shows the average European non-executive director is 60 years old, white, male – and in 2013 paid at least 10% more than women who manage to make it to the boardroom. He is from the same country where the company he serves is listed and/or headquartered, and has spent the majority of his career in that country. When it comes to the pressing 2014 problem of ‘cyber risk’, it is quite possible he would not know where to begin to deal with it.

The UK has changed its business culture rapidly on gender diversity over the past few years. News just out from the Professional Boards Forum’s Boardwatch reveals that women now make up just over 20% of non-executive boardroom positions. Today, with the London Stock Exchange appointing two women to its board, there are only two remaining FTSE100 companies with all-male boards.

Women appointed to one of the world’s most important stock exchanges for their technology experience just a week before Davos opens its doors says a great deal. It suggests that qualified women are not in short supply, they are simply invisible in a man’s world.

Davos has responded quickly since first criticisms appeared on Twitter. Fernando Morales-de la Cruz  and the Itinerant Museum of Art introduced a pop poster designed with Cornelia Vinzens which imagines a world in which female decision-makers outnumber men by four to one. They term it #ReverseReality -  and it is, at the very least , thought provoking – as one would expect from anything that aims to ‘change the world.’

Adrian Monck is in charge of communications for Davos and he has been quick to respond to any hint of a Twitter campaign.   He has done well – it’s his job.Mr Monck  blames the fact that a gathering of the world’s most powerful simply reflects the way things are. “If we hold the glass up to global leadership, the reflection that comes back is this. And it’s just not good enough,” he tells a UK national newspaper, The Guardian.

He is right on one important point – it’s not good enough. What is the point of meetings between elite male leaders to discuss a world that goes far beyond their boundaries? Clearly, meetings like the World Economic Forum are also about making money for those who think them up.

One could argue that as long as Mr Klaus Schwab can sell a stagnant ‘Davos’ there has been no change in a world crying out for what it calls ‘leadership.’

Source: Forbes Business


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