The Difference a Year Makes: Two comments on the impact of women at Davos 2018
On January 21st 2017 women (and many men) around the world started marching at a scale unseen in decades. The date was significant; it was the day following the inauguration of Donald Trump as President of the United States. The protests aimed to send a message to the new administration amidst fears that gains made in gender equality would backslide.
The theme of this year’s annual meeting of the World Economic Forum in Davos was “Creating a Shared Future in a Fractured World”; a theme that reflected the polarities of 2017 where divisive fault lines and a vision of carnage described in Trump’s inauguration speech stood at odds with the global commons, sustainable development and, significantly, gender equality. What a difference a year makes. By the close of 2017, the year had arguably become better known for #metoo and #timesup than America First – and, by the time Trump spoke at Davos, American First has taken on the caveat “but not alone”. What does all this mean for global gender equality and how did the WEF 2018 meeting respond?
- Since 2006 the forum has been analysing data for its widely cited annual Global Gender Gap Report. In a move unimaginable in 1971 at the inaugural meeting, the year 2018 was historic in that it was co-chaired entirely by women. Leadership is a critical ingredient in sustaining gender equality, and the WEF may have just taken a small step towards closing the gap it has been reporting on for so long.
- In a session on shaking up beliefs and behaviours about gender, Harvard Professor Iris Bohnet and Proctor and Gamble North America President, Carolyn Tastad, discussed the unconscious bias that generates norms. When we see #manels on elite global stages like Davos, we form an unconscious idea of what power looks like- and it is male. This year, of the 406 sessions on the official programme two were all-male. And, one was all-women. Moreover, the all-women panel was not about gender and focused on the theme of the meeting: the global economic outlook, the fractured world and the fourth industrial revolution.
It takes multiple social, economic and political forces to produce transformational gender justice. In this particular historical moment, the fear of a fractured world may prove to be a galvanizing pivot on which to build momentum on all issues of equity and equality. Let’s see what difference another year can make?