World Economic Forum attempts to integrate gender and equality into broader discussions

World Economic Forum attempts to integrate gender and equality into broader discussions

by Shruthi Venkatesh January 29 2019, 1:53 pm Estimated Reading Time: 3 mins, 21 secs

On the night of 22nd January (Tuesday), JPMorgan chief Jamie Dimon checked in to the Panorama Hotel in Davos to have an informal discussion on the issues of gender along with two of the bank’s senior female executives. It is such a wonder, noticing among all the events held at Davos this week, this conference was bit exceptional and had a unique mention as most of the audience were women.

It is also observed that men made up 78% of the attendees at the World Economic Forum and while focusing on more of gender and diversity events, the ratio was reversed. “It’s been standing room only, and we’ve had some amazing speakers,” said Shelley Zalis, chief executive officer of the Female Quotient, which works with companies to develop equality in the workplace. Zalis runs the so-called Equality Lounge for the past four years. It is usually made use for events like Dimon’s talk. Bloomsberg reports that - This year executives from Procter & Gamble, Bank of America and Twitter also appeared, each drawing an audience of hundreds.

Similarly, the World Economic Forum witnessed the issues on the #Metoo movement, highlighted by Canadian Premier Justin Trudeau’s speech last year in which he called on executives to value female employees and take the issue of sexual harassment seriously. This year, the issue resulted in the U.K. exit from the European Union, trade wars, and the just-resolved U.S. government shutdown. “We’ve moved very much on to Tech/AI, which seems to be a heavy discussion,” Vas Narasimhan, CEO of Swiss drug maker Novartis AG, said in an interview from Davos. “Even when I look at the rooms, as an American, but an Asian American, I am still in a room full of mostly male Caucasian executives. And I hope we don’t lose momentum on this point.’’

Seven prominent women co-chaired the World Economic Forum this year (Getty images)

It is said that, last year - Women made up 22% of the official guest list (a little rise from 21 percent). According to Forum data, among the 600 panels offered as part of the official program, 37 percent of Davos panellists were women. Also, it is interesting to note that almost 95 percent of panels included at least one woman. This year, Goldman Sachs – an investment banking company, promoted its 10,000 Women program, designed to support women in the workplace, and CEO David Solomon said he opted to bring three women in its delegation: Stephanie Cohen, chief strategy officer; Sheila Patel, CEO of International Asset Management; and partner Dina Powell.

Dimon told a story of a meeting in which a senior JPMorgan Chase & Co. executive chatted with all the men about baseball and what they did over the weekend, ignoring the women. “I observed this a couple of times in a row, and I went to see him and said ‘It’s inappropriate’ and I’ve seen this with many managing men,” Dimon said during the discussion. “They’ve got their friends, their goombas (slang for friend), and their buddies. Every now and then there’s a woman among their group - but if you are a leader you cannot do that.” With this story, Dimon touched on the larger problem for Davos - or any high-profile event.

The Female Quotient’s panels attracted mostly women; even though it’s really the high-powered men who most need to learn and understand the issue. “Once [a panel] has ‘woman’ in the title, it’s read as ‘for women,’” she said in an interview. “Eighty percent of people who should be there, aren’t really there” Anino Emuwa, founder and managing director of strategy company Avandis Consulting stressing the importance of equality and gender into broader discussions on economies and business.

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