January 28th, 2011
12:06 AM GMT
(CNN) – Watching CNN’s fantastic Davos coverage both on television and online, I can’t help but notice we’re always talking to men. Turns out, there’s good reason for it.
According to World Economic Forum executives, women have never made up more than 17% of total attendees. The WEF has introduced a quota for female executives from major sponsors at this year’s summit. One in five delegates sent by strategic partners must be female.
I’ve never met a quota that didn’t have a long trail of strong opinion floating behind it, and this one is no exception.
As one of my Twitter followers asked: “Why does gender still count in 2011? Why don’t we talk about how qualified a person is for the job of CEO?”
And from a Facebook friend: “Gender is not an issue any more. Anyone can do anything with tenacity.” Well, not-so-much in Davos, I’m afraid, where men and women alike need a tenacious $70,000 just to have a ticket through the front door!
But I get the point.
People hate quotas. They are suspicious. They suggest we are not equal and can’t exercise free will. They suggest there are evil forces at work, even though we can’t quite see them through the pretty Davos snow, falling on ski slopes.
CEO (and yes, female) Cynthia Good of The Little Pink Book, an online resource for working women, says the Davos quota flap is a symptom of something very real and pressing in the business world. She comes packing with statistics that are truly shocking: Women hold less than 3% of Fortune 500 CEO jobs, 15.7 % of corporate board seats, up just 1% in five years.
This is despite recent data such as the McKinsey survey that finds promoting women is good for business. Companies with more women in key executive roles were found to deliver a 34% higher return to shareholders.
But wait a minute—QUOTAS? At Davos? “More effort must be made to ensure diversity,” says Good, “And you have to start somewhere.”
Personally, I favor mentoring, transparency on very real gender disparities in the workplace in terms of pay, and recruitment. And how about rounding up the best 50 female CEOs out there in the global marketplace, people just like Cynthia Good, who got there with their own tenacity, talent, luck, whatever it was- and hear their ideas?
I’ll bet they’d give those guys at Davos an earful.
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