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Nearly every year for the past three decades, heads of state, chief executives, top economists and other celebrities have swarmed Davos-Klosters, Switzerland, for the World Economic Forum’s annual meeting, which kicks off again Monday.
The Alpine gathering is billed as a place where the sharpest minds debate Earth’s loftiest problems, including war and environmental decline. The themes have changed over time, but one trait has persisted: Davos is dominated by men. So much so that the political scientist Samuel P. Huntington’s nickname for the global elite, coined in 2004 and still widely used, is the Davos Man.
The 2018 cast of seven co-chairs comes as a twist. For the first time in the forum’s history, all the top Davos Men are women. There’s a union boss, a nuclear physicist, two company heads, a financial organization leader, an economist and the prime minister of Norway.
The all-women leadership team presides over the conference after a weekend of women’s rallies in the U.S. and around the world against the gender pay gap and other issues — and a year of fierce public debate about sexual harassment.
The gender transformation at the top of the conference does little to improve its overall ratio. Just 21 percent of the roughly 3,000 participants this year are women, the forum said. That’s a slight uptick from 20 percent in 2017, 18 percent in 2016 and 17 percent in 2015. It’s way up from 9 percent in 2002.
The imbalance is not specific to Davos.
“That is a mirror of how this community looks like in the world at large,” said Peter Vanham, a forum spokesman.