The 2015 World Economic Forum’s annual meeting brought together leaders from many different fields, including international politics, economics, business, technology, and even entertainment. While the discussions covered a wide range of economic issues, including healthcare, technological security, income inequality, and unemployment, many of the discussions delved into the advancement of women. Unfortunately, the number of women in attendance at the World Economic Forum annual meeting was low relative to the number of men in attendance. Women accounted for only 17% of the participants at the event. However, many of the conversations highlighted the need to invest in women and proposed strategies to empower women and decrease gender inequality. Below are five moments that featured ideas regarding the advancement of women.
- Melinda Gates emphasized the potential for mobile technology to enable progress in the developing world, particularly if women are able to access mobile phones rather than only men. Both Melinda and Bill Gates discussed solutions to poverty eradication, and stated that the lives of people living in poverty will improve more in the next 15 years than in any other time in history due to innovations in healthcare, agriculture, and infrastructure.
- Sheryl Sandberg also discussed the importance of technology to the advancement of women. Sandberg highlighted the disparity in connectivity between men and women in developing nations as a major factor that inhibits progress. She also argued that if women get connected there will be a greater impact on society than if men get connected due to women’s reinvestment of income into their families and education. In order to combat inequality in connectivity, Facebook will be providing free internet through a smartphone app that will allow people in countries, such as Ghana, Zambia, and Tanzania, to access a number of websites, including Wikipedia and Unicef.
- Emma Watson launched a new initiative called Impact 10x10x10, which is a one-year long project that will encourage businesses, universities, and governments to make commitments to gender parity. This initiative is a follow-up to the HeForShe campaign announcement in September, which captured the attention of 11 million viewers and generated 1.2 social media discussions. Watson stressed that gender inequality has prevented the world from benefiting from the contributions of the world, and Impact 10x10x10 aims to unlock the untapped potential of women on a global scale.
- Catchafire Founder & CEO Rachael Chong stressed that all women have the potential to be activists. Given the gender disparity at the World Economic Forum, as well as many fields in business and politics, women need to speak up and use their voices to point out biases or actions that perpetuate gender discrimination and inequality.
- Katie Couric moderated a panel entitled “Ending Poverty through Parity”. Panelists included Melinda Gates, Norwegian Prime Minister Erna Solberg, Rwandan President Paul Kagame, Unilever CEO Paul Polman, and Phumzile Mlambo-Ngcuka of the United Nations. The panel focused on the need to invest in women, strategies to eliminate gender inequality, and the positive social and economic benefits that can result from empowering women and girls. The entire discussion is available here.