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Davos Woman

Several years ago, the late political scientist and FP co-founder Sam Huntington coined the phrase Davos Man to describe the lifestyles and worldviews of habitues of the global confab. Thanks to new gender equity policies instituted by the organizers this year, a more gender-neutral moniker may be required:  The World Economic Forum WEF.L will for ...

PIERRE VERDY/AFP/Getty Images
PIERRE VERDY/AFP/Getty Images

Several years ago, the late political scientist and FP co-founder Sam Huntington coined the phrase Davos Man to describe the lifestyles and worldviews of habitues of the global confab. Thanks to new gender equity policies instituted by the organizers this year, a more gender-neutral moniker may be required

The World Economic Forum WEF.L will for the first time require that its around 100 "strategic partners" — comprising many of the world’s top firms — include one woman among their five delegates to the meeting which starts on January 26.

"There are so few women heads of state, CEOs. This is an attempt to nudge towards gender parity in terms of participation," Saadia Zahidi, who heads the WEF’s women leaders and gender parity groups, told Reuters.

[…]

Zahidi said the policy should increase the proportion of women to about 20 percent of the 2,500 participants at Davos from the 15-17 percent where it has stagnated in recent years.

In the Guardian, Columbia international relations professor Anya Schiffrin, who is also the wife of economist Joseph Stiglitz, discusses the plight of "Davos wives":

If being a Davos Woman is hard, being a "Davos wife" is still more invidious. "Davos wives" are given white name-only badges with no affiliation – which is like an announcement to the world that no one need trouble talking to us. We are given last priority to get into sessions and sometimes barred from the popular ones, and – no matter how accomplished we are in our own right – we are never given a chance to participate. Just about the only activity organised specifically for "Davos wives" is a sleigh ride to a fondue restaurant (which, admittedly, is really fun). But, all in all, no wonder many never bother to come back the next year.

So, if the World Economic Forum really wants to give women more visibility without spending money on recruiting new ones, they could draw on the pool of actually accomplished "Davos wives" already attending. After all, we have nothing to lose but the sleigh ride to the fondue restaurant.

The WEF seems to be one of those special institutions whose every effort to improve its public image and inclusiveness only winds up making it look more obnoxious. 

 Twitter: @joshuakeating

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