In a bid to boost female representation at the annual World Economic Forum, this year’s event is the first ever to be chaired entirely by women.
Previously women have made up as little as 17 percent of the meeting’s attendees, despite a 2011 quota requesting strategic partners to send at least one woman for every four men.
Numbers of female participants are on the rise (this year’s figure sits at 21 percent) but the appointment of an all-female panel sets a precedent for more equal representation in future.
Verdict takes a closer look at the figures that make up the roster of female chairs at Davos, which will play host to economists, leaders, businesses and journalists from across the globe.
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Christine Lagarde, a French lawyer and politician, is best known as the Director of the International Monetary Fund (IMF), a job she’s held since 2011.
She was the first woman to become the finance minister of a G8 economy (France) and the first woman to head the IMF.
Numerous publications have included her in lists concerning influential figures in business and economics. The Financial Times ranked her as the best minister of finance in the Eurozone and in 2014 Forbes ranked her the 5th most powerful woman in the world.
During her time in the French government she was at various times minister of economic affairs, finance and employment, minister of agriculture and fishing, and minister of trade.
In 2012 France awarded her the Legion d’Honneur, the country’s highest honour.
Also joining the female panel at Davos is particle physicist and current director general for the European Organisation for Nuclear Research (CERN), Fabiola Gianotti. She is the first woman to hold the position.
In 2009 Gianotti was made project leader and spokesperson of the Atlas project at CERN, which was investigating the Higgs boson.
In 2012 Gianotti announced the discovery of the particle, shifting it out of the theoretical realm and helping to explain why some fundamental particles have mass.
The Guardian included Gianotti in their 2011 Top 100 Most Inspirational Women, Time magazine ranked her 5th in their 2012 Personality of the Year and Forbes included her in their Top 100 Most Influential Women of 2013.
Among her awards are the Enrico Fermi Prize of the Italian Physical Society in 2013, the Niels Bohr Institute Medal of Honour in the same year, and the Gold Medal of the Milan Municipality in 2012.
Looking forward to launching the first fund for Women Micro Entrepreneurs in India #wef18 Our panel at Davos looks at how we move towards prosperity by investing in women-owned small businesses to ensure that they can fulfill their dreams pic.twitter.com/1jrWl9ingi
— chetna sinha (@chetnavsinha) January 17, 2018
Sinha is an Indian social activist dedicated to the empowerment of women. She is the founder and chair of the Mann Deshi Mahila Sahkari Bank, a microfinance company that lends to women in rural areas. It was the first Indian bank for and by rural women to get a cooperative license from the Reserve Bank of India.
She is also the founder and chair of sister organisation the Mann Deshi Foundation, which dedicates itself to supporting female entrepreneurs and their communities.
According to its site, the Foundation aims by 2022:
To provide one million women entrepreneurs with access to knowledge and capital, enabling them to have personal and professional agency in their lives.
Sinha received the Entrepreneurship Development Award in 2010, the Godfrey Phillips Bravery Amodini Award in 2009 and the Rani Laxmiibai Puraskar in 2009. The latter is given to women for outstanding work in their field.
Rometty has worked for the American multinational technology company IBM since 1981. She now acts as chairman, president and CEO, being the first woman to hold these positions.
Bloomberg have named her among the 50 Most Influential People in the World in 2012, while on the 2016 Forbes list The World’s 100 Most Powerful Women she ranked at number 11. Fortune have ranked her among the 50 Most Powerful Women in Business for ten consecutive years and in September 2017 she was named 6th on their list.
Rometty also serves on the Council on Foreign Relations, the board of trustees of Northwestern University, and the board of overseers and board of managers of Memorial Sloan-Kettering Cancer Center.
Also set to join the female panel at Davos is Sharan Burrow, general secretary of the International Trade Union Confederation (ITUC). Holding the position since 2010, she is the first woman to take on the role.
In her acceptance speech after becoming ITUC’s general secretary she highlighted the gender inequalities still present in the work space:
I am a warrior for women and we still have work to ensure the inclusion of women in the workplace…The struggles for women are multiple…but the investment in and participation of women is not only a moral mandate, it is an investment in democracy and a bulwark against fundamentalism and oppression.
With a long history in workers’ rights she was previously President of the Bathurst Trades and Labour Council, the Senior Vice-President of the NSW Teachers’ Federation and President of the Australian Education Union. In 2000 she became the first woman to be elected President of the International Confederation of Free Trade Unions Asia Pacific Region Organisation.
Solberg has been the prime minister of Norway since 2013 and has been leader of the country’s Conservative Party since 2004. She is the second woman to hold the position of prime minister after Gro Harlem Brundtland.
Solberg was first elected into Norwegian Parliament in 1989 and also led the national Conservative Women’s Association between 1994 and 1998.
According to Forbes, Solberg
Has melded a conservative fiscal stance with a humanistic point of view that also emphasises people’s needs.
Of this year’s event, Solberg told Verdict:
It’s an honour to be asked to be co-chair at the World Economic Forum this year. For my part, as Norwegian Prime Minister, I am particularly concerned about the need to create a sustainable welfare society.
Inclusive growth is essential to reach that goal. This means, among other things, that both women and men must be able to take part in the labour market on equal terms.
The final member of the female panel at Davos is Isabelle Kocher, a French businesswoman who currently serves as the CEO of the energy conglomerate Engie.
She took on the position in 2016, heading the world’s largest non-state-owned electricity company
Forbes ranked her number 24 on their Worlds’ 100 Most Powerful Women in 2017, describing her as;
Leading the company out of coal and into renewable energy.
She has previously stated that Engie has to take responsibility against climate change, and has plans to position the company as a forerunner in the energy market.