WEF 2018 Begins - Chaired Entirely by Women

Davos World Economic Forum Chaired Women

This year’s World Economic Forum (WEF) of global leaders and CEOs in Davos, Switzerland is to be chaired entirely by women for the first time in the organisation’s 48-year history.

The seven co-chairs for the four-day event, which starts on 23 January, include International Monetary Fund director Christine Lagarde, Norwegian prime minister Erna Solberg and IBM’s chief executive Ginni Rometty.

The move comes after the high-profile summit was criticised for lacking female representation at past events.

A WEF spokeswoman said the co-chairs, who help develop the Davos programme and lead panel discussions, were chosen to reflect global stakeholders, adding that the women “represent both the public and private sectors, international organisations, organised labour, academia and science, as well as civil society and social entrepreneurship”.

“It’s an honour to be asked to be co-chair at the World Economic Forum,” said Norway PM Solberg, who underlined her commitment to creating a sustainable welfare society.

“Inclusive growth is essential to reach that goal,” she told CNBC. “This means, among other things, that both women and men must be able to take part in the labour market on equal terms.”

everywoman co-founders Karen Gill and Maxine Benson said “This is a historic moment but long overdue. Having women chairing the conference will help shape a more inclusive debate which we know leads to a more inclusive and economically healthy society.”

According to WEF, the theme of this year’s conference is to “explore the root causes of, and pragmatic solutions for, the manifold political, economic and social fractures facing global society”.

Attended by more than 2,500 people, including world leaders, business tycoons, policymakers and well-meaning celebrities, the Alpine summit has come under fire in recent years for being a male-dominated event. The pejorative “Davos Man” was coined to describe the typical wealthy, elite men who rub shoulders at Davos.

Speaking to CNBC, another summit co-chair, Sharan Burrow, took aim at Davos Man, saying: “If you ask me whether this rise of the alpha leader has created a wave of misogyny, you know my answer is yes.”

Burrow, General Secretary of the International Trade Union Confederation, added: “Davos Man needs to listen if he cares about his families and particularly about the question of equality and equal opportunity for his daughters.”

Other co-chairs are the Italian physicist Fabiola Gianotti, director general of the CERN particle physics research centre, Isabelle Kocher, head of French energy supplier Engie, and Chetna Sinha, founder of India’s Mann Deshi bank for women.

The all-female chair was announced at the same time as a WEF report that found it will take a further 217 years before women earn as much as men and will have equal workplace representation.

Published in November, the annual report, titled “Global Gender Gap in 2017”, noted that women in senior industry positions are still few and far between and that the global gender pay gap had widened to 58 percent.

This is the second year in a row that the WEF has recorded deteriorating economic inequality.

Outlining the progress that 144 countries are making towards gender equality in the economic, education, health and political empowerment, the report found that the “overall global gender gap can be closed in exactly 100 years”.

PwC’s Women in Work Index 2017 noted that earnings by women could increase by as much as $2trn (roughly £1.44trn) if pay parity is achieved in the group of 31 countries that make up the Organisation for Economic Cooperation and Development.

The WEF annual summit in Davos runs from 23-26 January.