If you attended the opening address by Angela Merkel or the private dinner in which Nobel laureate Leymah Gbowee held a group of financiers in thrall with her life story, you might think that fabulous, powerful women dominate Davos. But the fact is, Davos has a woman problem.
The first day, which included honours for the Japanese violinist Midori and a screening of the biopic of Aung San Suu Kyi, may have ended with a party to "honour women innovators" such as the web entrepreneur Arianna Huffington. with guests departing into the snowy darkness of Davos to the rousing sounds of the 1980s disco classic Ladies' Night. And the biggest day of this year's World Economic Forum (WEF) on Friday may include a main room event discussing "women as the way forward".
But while the impact of women this year may be bigger than ever, organisers keen to encourage and then trumpet their success cannot hide the fact that their numbers are still small.
Despite a new quota system demanding that the largest members send one woman for every four men, just 17% of the 2,500 delegates are female. Despite a push to encourage more women on to panels to discuss the issues of the day, just 20% of those invited to do so are women. The majority of panels, especially on key economic topics, are still dominated by (white) men.
By her own example, Sheryl Sandberg of Facebook demonstrates all that women can achieve when they have the talent, drive and opportunity to succeed, and she is paving the way for other women to follow her path to the top (“The $1.6 Billion Woman, Staying on Message,” Feb. 5).
But research cautions that there are many other barriers, some invisible, that continue to block women from success: subtle and not-so-subtle biases about what constitutes leadership, a lack of mentors and sponsors to pull women through the pipeline, and a corporate culture that may lack flexibility and other policies to enable women to advance.
Women’s representation on Fortune 500 boards continues to languish. With women accounting for a majority of Facebook users, it is in the company’s interest to ensure that women are represented throughout decision-making. Let’s hope that when the company goes public, Ms. Sandberg’s trailblazing will include inviting women onto the board. Linda Basch, Ph.D.
Manhattan, Feb. 6
The writer is president of the National Council for Research on Women.•
“Women are contributing in unprecedented ways to the military’s mission,” Defense Secretary Leon Panetta said in a statement heralding the change, which was detailed at a briefing Thursday. “We will continue to open as many positions as possible to women so that anyone qualified to serve can have the opportunity to do so.”
But the move still bans them from key infantry, armor and special operations units, leaving many advocates unimpressed.
Responding to an order from Congress, the Pentagon said it was tweaking the 1994 rules on the issue:
– Women will no longer be barred from jobs simply because those jobs require those holding them to be located with ground-combat units. That means women will be able to serve as tank mechanics, radio operators and in other support billets, opening up more than 13,000 jobs to women.
– Women will be permitted to serve in 800-troop combat battalions, a smaller unit – closer to the front — than the higher-level 4,000-strong brigades where they had been limited to serving in support roles further from the action. More than a thousand jobs will be open to women under this change, although many already have been serving in those jobs as temporary “attachments.”
U.K. companies may face quotas unless they promote more women to board level, Prime Minister David Cameron warned, saying businesses are “failing” the economy by not having enough females in senior positions.
From Business Week:
Appointing women as directors and encouraging them as entrepreneurs is “about quality, not just equality,” Cameron said at a meeting of the Northern Future Forum in Stockholm today.
“The case is overwhelming that companies are run better if we have men and women alongside each other,” Cameron said in a round-table discussion. “If we can’t get there in other ways I think we have to have quotas.”
The U.K. is working to implement the recommendations of a February 2011 report by Mervyn Davies on increasing the number of women on boards, it said in a submission to the meeting. As a result, women now make up 15 percent of directors of companies in the benchmark FTSE 100 Index, up from 12.5 percent last year, and there are now only 10 all-male boards in the FTSE, down from 21 last year.
Starting in October, as a result of a new provision in the U.K. corporate-governance code, companies will have to report on their policy for boardroom diversity and how they are making progress in delivering it.
We all know that women and girls are not showing up on a leadership trajectory, a position that would otherwise seem consistent with their increased rates of higher education, business ownership, workforce participation and other factors.
Back in 1993, I created a high-profile initiative called Take Our Daughters To Work that bears many similarities to the new campaign from the Girl Scouts and Nike’s campaign. Carol Gilligan’s seminal book, ‘In A Different Voice,’ provided the research orientation and Take Our Daughters To Work succeeded in mobilizing more than 70 million people on behalf of girls.
Yet, the research, the campaigns, and the web sites just keep on coming.
The 2010 Women's Report examined the attitudes of women in 59 economies.
In 2010, 104 million women representing more than half the world's population and 84 percent of world gross domestic product started and managed new business ventures. Reuters asked Donna J. Kelley, a Babson associate professor of entrepreneurship and one of the report's lead authors, for a bit of insight about U.S. women and small business.
The disconnect puts the social-media company at odds with others in the industry that have at least one female director, including LinkedIn Corp. and Google Inc., and from most big public companies in the U.S. Just 11.3 percent of the Fortune 500 had male-only boards last year, according to Catalyst, a New York-based nonprofit that researches women and business issues.
“We’re long past having to defend or explain why women should be on boards, given all the data that shows how companies with female as well as male directors perform better,” said Anne Mulcahy, former chairman and chief executive officer of Xerox Corp. and a director at Johnson & Johnson Co., Target Corp. and Washington Post Co. “It’s unfortunate when companies with a large percentage of women constituents don’t reflect that in their boardrooms.”
Modeled on a national program, the Madison-based nonprofit is training a generation of progressive Democratic women how to run for public office and win.
The program "helped me to consolidate the campaign structure, and it helped me to be more effective in my message," said state Rep. Penny Bernard Schaber, D-Appleton, who completed the training alongside state Sen. Jessica King, D-Oshkosh, in 2007.
The six-month program covers everything from building a field operations team to the fine print of campaign finance, and each class is limited to 25 women, who must apply for a spot in the program.