Gender quotas: World Economic Forum

A recent article by Uri Friedman in the Atlantic Wire noted that in an effort to

The audience looks on

WIPA member at first Guest Speaker Event

increase gender diversity, this year’s World Economic Forum will require that one of the five attendees from each participating corporation must be a woman.  Apparently, female representation at this exclusive, invitation-only event has been lacking.  Mr. Friedman points out that total number of  female participants has hovered at a shockingly low 17%.

While at first glance this might seem like a reasonable and even commendable target it has produced a flurry of varying responses.  From Elena Moya of the Guardian who argues that this target is too low, to Kristy MacArthur of Heartwood Wealth Management who feels that women should earn these positions of power, not receive it due to a quota system.

This conversation harkens back to the rancorous US Affirmative Action debates of the 90s and early 00s.  Much of this debate centered on hiring policies and college admissions systems that gave preference and/or additional weight to women and minorities.  Some argued these policies actively promoted reverse discrimination.

In the US Federal Government, Equal Employment Opportunity (EEO) is targeted at increasing the presence of women and minorities working in the federal sector.  This policy has been successful such that women now make up almost 50% of the Federal workforce.  It should be noted that it is not entirely clear how much of this is a direct result of EEO policies and how much is due additional external factors.

However, what is clear is the rising role of women in the US Foreign Policy.  Over the last 13 years, 3 of the 4 Secretaries of State have been women. Today women hold one third of all US ambassadorships.  Countries where the current US Ambassador is female include the Ivory Coast, Argentina, Costa Rica, Laos, Mozambique and South Korea.

This while it remains to be seen how the quota system for the World Economic Forum will play out, I think that by setting a reasonable (and certainly achievable) minimum the WEF will be setting a standard that may begin to establish new industry-wide norms.   At that point, gender quotas may no longer be necessary or realistic.  Lets hope that this is the case.

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5 Responses to Gender quotas: World Economic Forum

  1. Magdalena says:

    Great article, refreshing page design, carry on the great work

    • Dochbr says:

      Indeed. When I attend a tech or visentor event all of us women can typically fit into the room with no waiting. Of course, we have to start somewhere, but will quotas do any actual good? Or do we run the risk of being seen as special as in not quite good enough, but All the old arguments and prejudices re affirmative action come to mind. (I’ll know we’re really making progress when they give Barbie flat feet and stop giving her glasses when they want to show she’s smart as they did with the tech geek Barbie.)

  2. SophieGuerin says:

    Thanks for the feedback. I’ll be posting an update to the WEF gender quotas in a bit. There is great continued coverage on the New York Times.

    I’m still tweaking the format. I’m playing with the style.css file and recently read a great post on making a “child” file to edit styles. Changing headers in the WP Twenty Ten Theme

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