Davos Women Remain Minority as Youth Gender Gap Closes

Women are still scarce at the World Economic Forum in Davos even as the youngest attendees reverse the gender gap for the first time.

Among the 2,500 participants at the world’s most prestigious gathering of political and business leaders, 17 percent will be women, about the same as in the past two years, according to WEF estimates. At the event, which kicks off Tuesday in the Swiss alpine resort, 54 percent of the forum’s Global Shapers community of 50 leaders will be female.

The lack of progress shows the challenge facing organizers, who have advocated the forum as a place to give women a voice.

“Women make up the majority of high-skilled talent,” said Saadia Zahidi, head of the WEF Women Leaders and Gender Parity Program. “But everyone is struggling with how to get this right.”

At least 40 heads of state or government including German Chancellor Angela Merkel and 13 Nobel laureates are participating in the 45th annual forum, which runs from Jan. 21 to Jan. 24.

Female participants will be highest among representatives of China and North America, with women making up more than 20 percent of delegates. Media and and academia have the highest female representation, at about a quarter, while less than 10 percent of private investors and energy industry leaders are women.

“The World Economic Forum statistics are not an exception; they reflect this broader social problem,” said Kim Samuel-Johnson, director of The Samuel Group of companies and a professor at McGill University in Canada. “I’ve been encouraged to see a lot more women here over the years in their own capacity as leaders and from a wide range of sectors.”

Six leaders co-chair the meeting, and among them two are women: Oxfam’s Winnie Byanyima and Alliance Trust Plc CEO Katherine Garrett-Cox.

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