News / Europe

Q&A: Why Weren’t There More Women Delegates in Davos?

International Monetary Fund Managing Director Christine Lagarde at Davos.
International Monetary Fund Managing Director Christine Lagarde at Davos.
Frances Alonzo
From business leaders, such as Chief Operating Officer Sheryl Sandberg at Facebook and President and CEO Marissa Mayer at Yahoo!, to economic decision makers, such as Janet Yellen at the U.S. Federal Reserve and Daniele Nouy at the European Central Bank’s supervisory board, women have risen to top posts in the male-dominant business world in the recent years.
 

However, that rise wasn’t reflected in Davos recently, where 2,500 delegates attended the World Economic Forum conference. Among them, 16 percent were female, down from 17 percent in 2013. While there were high profile women in attendance, like the chief of the International Monetary Fund Christine Lagarde, Helen Clarke of the UNDP, Arianna Huffington of AOL, and Melanne Verveer from the Georgetown Institute for Women, Peace and Security , the numbers don’t lie. 
 
Carol Yost, the Senior Director of the Women's Empowerment Program at the Asia Foundation, spoke to VOA’s Frances Alonzo about why women’s issues are among the top issues at the forum and what should have gotten more attention.
 
YOST:  The statistics on the participation in Davos were quite shocking I think. There were very, very, low level of women participants over all in the forum and certainly women's empowerment but I'm not sure it got the serious attention it deserved.
 
ALONZO: Why is that?
 
YOST:  I don't think it ever makes it to the top of the agenda because there are so many other pressing issues and there's always, women always are kind of secondary. Well if we have time, or we’ll put it on the agenda for this one short session. Women are very marginalized I think, even in a forum like Davos.
 
ALONZO: In your view, what will it take change that viewpoint?
 
YOST:  Well, I think the organizers need to be much more aware of who's participating and the issues that go on to the agenda. I would hope they could be encouraged or shamed into making a big step forward in this whole arena where it is a serious gap. But [there] would have to be kind of a consciousness among the organizers and then pressures brought to bear on why you don't have more women. Why aren't more women participating, why aren't women's issues higher on the agenda and more discussion of if you are discussing economic growth, what is women's role in that specifically? Women are such an extraordinary untapped resource for economic growth, certainly in our region of Asia, South East and East Asia. The countries are going to lag behind if they don't employ this huge human resource that they have.  Women want to work, they want to earn an income, so it has to have regulations [that] are user-friendly, programs that encourage women entrepreneurs that make credit available, training and how to run a business, how to manage accounts, to get them a leg up.
 
ALONZO: To be honest with you, it seems like all the things that you were talking about [are] very easy to do.  They don't seem insurmountable, what is it that is holding women back in many of the Asian countries?
 
YOST:  I think what's always held them back, their needs and opportunities for them are not prioritized particularly to address the problems that they [face]; it's trying to manage childcare, working in the household, with jobs.
 
ALONZO: With regard to the Economic Forum, would you go far as to characterize that women's issues, women's economic empowerment issues are being ignored?
 
YOST:  I haven’t exactly followed the entire agenda, so I don’t think I can answer that, in looking over the agenda it certainly looked like women’s issues were being largely ignored. Economic empowerment is so important for women, because there are so many other benefits that cascade from that. Many studies do show that when women have income one of the first things they spend it on is educating their children where that’s not as true for men. So if you have a marginal increase in women’s income it benefits the household, their children, they eat better, health care, so everybody benefits from those investments in women and their ability to become, you know, economically viable.

You May Like

Could Nemtsov Threaten Putin in Death as in Life?

Dynamic and debonair opposition leader had supported liberal economic reforms, criticized Russian president's aggression in Ukraine More

Oil Smuggling Highlights Challenges in Shutting Down IS Finances

Pentagon spokesman says Islamic State 'certainly continues to get revenue from the oil industry black market' but that airstrikes have made a dent More

India Focuses on Infrastructure, Investment to Propel Economy

Government expects economy to grow at 8 to 8.5 percent in next fiscal year More

Featured Videos

Your JavaScript is turned off or you have an old version of Adobe's Flash Player. Get the latest Flash player.
US Supreme Court Hears Hijab Discrimination Casei
X
Katherine Gypson
February 25, 2015 11:30 PM
The U.S. Supreme Court has heard opening arguments in a workplace religious discrimination case that examines whether a clothing store can refuse to hire a young woman for wearing the headscarf she says is a symbol of her Muslim faith. Katherine Gypson reports from the Supreme Court.
Video

Video US Supreme Court Hears Hijab Discrimination Case

The U.S. Supreme Court has heard opening arguments in a workplace religious discrimination case that examines whether a clothing store can refuse to hire a young woman for wearing the headscarf she says is a symbol of her Muslim faith. Katherine Gypson reports from the Supreme Court.
Video

Video Falling Gas Prices Hurt Nascent Illinois Hydraulic Fracturing Industry

Falling oil prices are helping consumers purchase cheaper petroleum at the pump. But that’s made hydraulic fracturing or “fracking” less economically viable for the companies in the United States invested in the process. VOA’s Kane Farabaugh reports on one Midwestern town that was hoping to change its fortunes by cashing in on the next big U.S. oil boom.
Video

Video Fighting in Sudan's South Kordofan Fuels Mass Displacement

Heavy fighting in Sudan's South Kordofan state is causing hundreds of thousands to flee into uncertain conditions. Local aid organizations estimate as many as 400,000 civilians have been internally displaced since the conflict began more than three years ago, while another 250,000 have fled across the border to refugee camps in South Sudan. VOA's Adam Bailes reports.
Video

Video Lao Dam Project Runs Into Opposition

A Lao dam project on a section of the Mekong River is drawing opposition from local fishermen, international environmental groups and neighboring countries. VOA's Say Mony visited the region to investigate the concerns. Colin Lovett narrates.
Video

Video A Filmmaker Discovers Her Biracial Identity in "Little White Lie

Lacey Schwartz grew up in an upper middle-class Jewish family, in a town in upstate New York where almost everyone she knew was white. She assumed that she was, as well. Her recent documentary, Little White Lie, tells the story of how she uncovered the secret of her true racial background. VOA’s Carolyn Weaver has more on the film.
Video

Video Deep Under Antarctic Ice Sheet, Life!

With the end of summer in the Southern hemisphere, the Antarctic research season is over. Scientists from Northern Illinois University are back in their laboratory after a 3-month expedition on the Ross Ice Shelf, the world’s largest floating ice sheet. As VOA’s Rosanne Skirble reports, they hope to find clues to explain the dynamics of the rapidly melting ice and its impact on sea level rise.
Video

Video US-Cuba Normalization Talks Resume Friday

Negotiations aimed at normalizing diplomatic relations between the U.S. and Cuba resume Friday. On the table: lifting a half-century trade embargo and easing banking and travel restrictions. There's opposition in Congress, but some analysts say there may be sufficient political and economic incentives in both nations for a potential breakthrough this year. VOA's Mil Arcega reports.
Video

Video Pakistan's Deadline For SIM Registration Has Cellphone Users Scrambling

Pakistani cell phone users have until midnight Thursday to register their SIM cards, or their service will be cut off. While some privacy experts worry about government intrusion, many Pakistanis are just worried about keeping their phone lines open. VOA Deewa reporter Arshad Muhmand has more from Peshawar.
Video

Video Myanmar Warns Factory Workers to End Strikes

Outside Myanmar's main city Yangon, thousands of workers walked off their jobs earlier this month demanding a doubling of their wages, pay raises after a year and input from labor unions on industrial regulations. Since Friday, the standoff has grown more tense as police moved in to disrupt the sit-ins, resulting in clashes that injured people from both sides. VOA correspondent Steve Herman visited industrial zones which have become a focus of Myanmar's fledgling workers rights movement.
Video

Video Oscar Winners Do More Than Thank the Academy

The Academy Awards presentation is Hollywood’s night to reward the best movies from the previous year. It’s typically a lot of glitter, a lot of thank you’s, a lot of speeches. But many of this year’s speeches carried messages beyond the thank you's. VOA’s Carolyn Presutti takes a look.

All About America

Circumventing Censorship

An Internet Primer for Healthy Web Habits

As surveillance and censoring technologies advance, so, too, do new tools for your computer or mobile device that help protect your privacy and break through Internet censorship.
More