Davos Fail in Diversity-Only 17% of Attendees at the 2012 Event Were Women

At one of the world’s most important talking shops, the World Economic Forum in Davos, Switzerland, only 20% of the attendees were women. This in spite of a Forum theme of “The Great Transformation: Shaping New Models.”

The World Economic Forum’s Annual Meeting in Davos is a gathering of the world’s business and political elite that deliberate and take decisions on issues that affect global society, a society 50% populated by women; yet, many panels were attended by only one woman or were not represented by women at all at the 2012 event.

Admittedly, Chancellor Angela Merkel of Germany was the keynote speaker and Christine Lagarde, the director of the International Monetary Fund, featured prominently. Other prominent women leaders in attendance were Sheryl Sandberg, chief operating officer of Facebook, Jill Abramson, executive editor of The New York Times, and Intellcap co-founder, Manju George.

The poor attendance by women is in spite of a quota that was imposed last year: out of the top 100 companies attending the event, one in every five people they send must be a woman. A fifth of those companies decided to bring just four people.

In spite of the disappointingly low numbers, it’s still the highest number in the 40 years of event’s history. A decade ago only 9% of attendees were women.

Saadi Zahidi, the head of constituents at WEF is spearheading the program to increase diversity at Davos. Her group was responsible for the introduction of a quota. An advisory board on gender parity has been set up and is running a series of sessions in Davos.

Those attending Davos are concerned that there hasn’t been enough progress in getting women involved in organizations that shape society. Lagarde was quoted as saying: ”Women have to be heard all over the world. Davos is not a bad place to be heard, but there are many other places around the world where they have to be heard more.”

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Christine Lagarde, the director of the International Monetary Fund at Davos 2012