Quota imposed to try to boost "Davos Woman"

Thu Jan 13, 2011 3:54pm EST
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By Emma Thomasson

ZURICH (Reuters Life!) - Organisers of the annual gathering of the world's rich and powerful in the Swiss ski resort of Davos are imposing a gender quota on top companies to try to lift the number of women at the male-dominated event.

The World Economic Forum (WEF) will for the first time require that its around 100 "strategic partners" -- comprising many of the world's top firms -- include one woman among their five delegates to the meeting which starts on January 26.

"There are so few women heads of state, CEOs. This is an attempt to nudge toward gender parity in terms of participation," Saadia Zahidi, who heads the WEF's women leaders and gender parity groups, told Reuters.

She noted that fewer than 3 percent of the Fortune Global 500 chief executives are women, only 15 percent of ministers and parliamentarians are female and less than 20 of the world's presidents or prime ministers are women.

Zahidi said the policy should increase the proportion of women to about 20 percent of the 2,500 participants at Davos from the 15-17 percent where it has stagnated in recent years.

She hoped it would enrich debate at the gathering of dark-suited bankers, captains of industry, policymakers and academics, set to be opened this year with a speech by Russian President Dmitry Medvedev.

"Any form of diversity should lead to more inclusive, wider perspectives. In companies, more diverse teams make better decisions," she said.

The WEF is taking other steps to promote female leaders, including a target of gender parity within five years in its community of young global leaders as well as discussion groups to identify barriers to women's economic participation.   Continued...

<p>An attendee walks past logos of the World Economic Forum (WEF), at the congress centre of the Alpine resort of Davos, the venue of the Forum, January 31, 2010. REUTERS/Arnd Wiegmann</p>