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22.01.16 20:48 Davos man’s world shrinks – by a fraction

Facebook COO and board member Sheryl Sandberg objects to gender disparity in the workplace


Women have not had much to cheer about in Davos so far: they make up a paltry 18% of delegates and have been informed by WEF research that they are likely to be hit hardest by predicted job losses in the fourth industrial revolution.

One the face of it, a report from the United Nations group UN Women released in Davos on Friday contained little in the way of light relief for women. With a total global workforce comprising 40% women, just 27% are managers and 29% are on the boards of listed companies. Furthermore, just 5% of women are CEOs on major companies.

But the UN Women campaign HeforSheexternal link is determined to do something about this. On Friday they released their first ever gender parity report focused on ten major global brands: McKinsey, Barclays, PricewaterhouseCoopers, Twitter, Unilever, Vodafone, Tupperware, AccorHotels, Schneider Electric and Koc Holding.

These so-called Corporate Impact Champions have put into place gender equality programmes and exposed themselves to HeforShe scrutiny. The results were actually rather varied, with the proportion of women in the top 6% of senior management roles varying from 11% at McKinsey and 43% at Unilever (who were the only firm to measure women in the top 9% of executive roles).

Tupperware had 40% women in their boardroom while Koc Group had only 7%. The scatter-gun effect of the results makes it hard to draw any firm conclusions, but the fact that they put their heads above the parapet was seen as a milestone by UN Women, which is committed to achieving gender parity by 2030.

Switzerland lags

So how does Switzerland compare? A report by executive headhunter Guido Schilling last March found that of the boardroom directors present at top Swiss firms in 2015 just 15% were female, among executives the figure was 6%. These numbers are up on previous years, but the government has put forward a bill to introduce a mandatory quota of 30% women in boardrooms and 20% executives.

But the bill stopped short of recommending binding quotas on companies. Also, it remains to be seen whether parliament will follow Germany’s example last year of introducing quotas. The measure is opposed by the country’s largest business lobby group, economiesuisse, including its own female director Monika Rühl.

Speaking at a WEF session in Davos on Friday, Sheryl Sandberg, chief operating officer and board member at Facebook, expressed reservations at how much could be achieved by introducing such quotas.

“While quotas may be good in certain circumstances, we can’t rely on them to change things to which they are not applied,” she said. In other words, if more women were appointed to management posts they would not necessarily receive the same pay as male peers.

Only a handful of European countries have adopted binding quotas so far.

For reference, here’s a 2014 comparative survey of women in the boardroom in European countries, compiled by gender equality group Catalyst.

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