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November 14, 2017updated 17 Jan 2018 12:12pm

Next year’s World Economic Forum in Davos will be co-chaired exclusively by women

By Scarlett Evans

Next year’s 48th annual World Economic Forum in the Swiss town of Davos will for the first time be chaired by seven women — the first all-female panel in its history.

Each year for four days in January the small town of Davos in the Swiss alps plays host to the world’s most important leaders, businesses, economists and journalists to discuss global issues.

The conference has received criticism in the past over the lack of female representation, with women making up as little at 17 percent in the meetings.

This is despite a 2011 quota that requests strategic partners send one woman for every four men. Though every year sees more women attendees (last year 21 percent of the 3,000 participants were women), the appointment of an all-female panel is set to boost figures.

The decision is particularly pertinent given that the annual report released this month by WEF reported an economic gap of 58 percent between men and women.

It also found that it will take a further 217 years for the pay gap to close between men and women, and for there to be equal representation in the workplace.

This is the second consecutive year that the Swiss organisation has reported worsening economic equality between men and women.

The upcoming conference is set to be attended by 3,000 people, including 50 heads of state and government.

Next year’s theme is creating a shared future in a fractured world and will be made up of 400 sessions in an “unparalleled effort to engage leaders in a new shared narrative to improve the state of the world.”

Klaus Schwab, founder and executive chairman of the World Economic Forum said the emphasis will be on developing “new models for cooperation that are not based on narrow interests but on the destiny of humanity as a whole.”

The women co-chairing the 2018 conference include International Monetary Fund director Christine Lagarde, IBM’s chief executive Ginni Rometty, the International Trade Union Confederation’s general-secretary Sharon Burrow, and director-general of the European Organization for Nuclear Research Fabiola Gianotti.

Also co-chairing the event are chief executive of French energy conglomerate Engie Isabella Kocher, founder and chair of the Mann Deshi Foundation Chetna Sinha, and the prime minister of Norway Erna Solberg.

The Forum said in a statement:

The co-chairs represent both the public and private sectors, international organisations, organised labour, academia and science as well as civil society and social entrepreneurship.

The choices include some of the most influential females in their respective industries. Rometty was named the 6th most powerful woman in business by Fortune in September of this year, while Lagarde was ranked the 5th most powerful woman in the world by Forbes. Gianotti has also been featured in Forbes as part of its top 100 most influential women list.

The World Economic Forum will take place between the 23rd and 26th of January 2018.