/ 26 January 2008

It’s still a man’s world at the Davos forum

Women may be smashing glass ceilings on Wall Street, but a walk down the crowded corridors of the World Economic Forum would have you fooled.

Organisers say female delegates make up 17% of the hundreds of policymakers and business leaders that gathered in the Alpine resort of Davos this week — less than one in five.

”That’s their highest ever number, but 17% of delegates being women is not representative at all,” Cherie Booth, a prominent lawyer and wife of former UK prime minister Tony Blair, told a breakfast meeting this week.

”This is not just a box that you tick.”

Check the lists of high-profile delegates picked to join the keenly followed panel debates on the year’s hot issues — the economy, sovereign wealth funds, financial risk — and you will struggle to find more than a handful of women.

Only Finance Minister Christine Lagarde, PepsiCo Chief Executive Indra Nooyi and television reporter Maria Bartiromo made it onto the key economic panels — and only two of those, of course, as panellists.

The forum is not entirely without its heavyweight female delegates; US Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice and Philippines President Gloria Arroyo made public appearances.

Most of the women in this Swiss resort are still the carefully groomed and fur-clad wives of the paying participants. Not everyone, though, is disappointed.

”Men everywhere, seas and seas,” actress Emma Thompson gushed on receiving an award at the forum. ”It’s been bliss!” – Reuters