The Gender Gap

LANDON: Welcome to WRS’s special coverage from the World Economic Forum in Davos. I’m Vincent Landon.

GANZER: And I’m Tony Ganzer.

They make up 50 percent of the world’s population. But here in Davos women only represent 17 percent of participants.  It reflects–even today–the continuing struggle for gender equality in society, business and government.

Here’s Christine Lagarde, IMF managing director.

LAGARDE:  “It makes economic sense to improve the situation of women; to make sure that they have access to education, that they have access to health, that they have access to jobs, that they have access to financing; and that they can sit at table with the same and the equal rights and opportunities.”

LANDON: Right now equality is more honoured in the breach than in the observance.  Sheryl Sandberg, is chief operating officer at Facebook.

SANDBERG: “Think of a career as a marathon. We know more women graduate from college.   So the men and the women they get to the starting line, equally fit and trained.  What happens?   Gun goes off, men and women run.  Everyone’s cheering the men on.  From the moment they leave school, the messages for the women are different.  ‘Are you sure you want to run?’ ‘Don’t you want kids one day?’ ‘Should you start this marathon knowing you’re not going to finish?’ And as you get more senior, those voices get louder.”

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“I am Ayta Kumcuoglu. I’m from Istanbul, Turkey.  I have been doing investment banking for many years, but then right now I have four children and honestly I haven’t really figured out how to match being a mother to four children with those kinds of hours of work.

In our bank 50 percent was women, but concentration tended to be on lower-ranking jobs.

It is very hard to translate actual careers into less rigorous or more manageable hours type of schedule.  So maybe three-days a week, maybe some half-days or something would let me still stay in the workforce.”

ANABEL GONZÁLEZ: “Costa Rica is a country that has made great strides in terms of women participation in government and politics.”

GANZER: Anabel González is, Minister of Foreign Trade of Costa Rica. Costa Rica has a female president. More than 40 percent of members of Congress are women, so too the ministers of agriculture, economy, housing and foreign trade.  But even here, there are challenges to overcome.

GONZÁLEZ: “I think the most important challenge for Costa Rica  is to continue to build the childcare support networks so that women can more decisively participate in the workplace.  We are working in this direction.   And of course education, which is always a key element in strengthening women participation in the work place.”

JUTTA URPILAINEN: “I would say educate your girls and women,  that’s the most important thing.”

LANDON: Finland regularly tops the rankings in questions of gender equality, but Finnish finance minister Jutta Urpilainen says also in Finland, there are limits.

URPILAINEN:  “Women’s position in Finland is quite good if you compare the other countries.  But it was a big surprise to me to see that in the economical sector and in the private companies we still have a lot to do.  Because for instance in the CEOs, we don’t have that many women.  That’s the one example where would like to see more progress in Finland also.”

Inside the Congress CenterInside the Congress Center

NAVI PILLAY: “In 2013, it’s ridiculous that women do not have equal representation in jobs, in politics, and so on.”

LANDON: Navi Pillay, the UN High Commissioner for Human Rights.

PILLAY: “There’s opportunity for change, and that’s what I sense around these halls, in the Arab states and opportunity for transformation.  So many  ideas on how women should be promoted and rightfully acknowledged.  I say you can’t have proper democracy unless you have the full participation of women.”

LANDON: And even here in the corridors of the World Economic Forum’s annual meeting they are a very distinct minority this year.  I think 17 percent participation by women.

PILLAY: “Yes, so that’s even a worse sign that there does not seem to be a progressive, an incremental increase of women’s participation.  I’ve just come from a very high-level meeting, and there were just four women and about 25 men there.”

LANDON:  What does one do…what does one do to either break these glass ceilings to get more women into boardrooms, to get women participating, to get women in some countries basic rights?

PILLAY: “I think that there has to be a change of mindset among men.  This is not just a woman’s issue where women are pushing for change.  Where change has come, for instance, a woman president of Switzerland last year,  the first woman president in South Korea.  So societies are willing to vote for a woman.  There isn’t a prejudice there in societies.  I think there is a mindset among men when they look for candidates or recruiting, they look amongst their own club, which is men.  The more we address the issue of discrimination and gender equality  I think that things will change.”

LANDON: In countries like South Africa, gender is definitely on the agenda, says Charlotte Maponya of Brand South Africa, but she says there needs to be more sincerity in how gender issues are addressed.

CHARLOTTE MAPONYA: “It should really be because they value  the input of women and not because they want to tick the box, and they want to fill the numbers.   Women leaders have proven over and over again that they are capable.  And it’s not a matter of capable better than men, or as equal as men.  They are just capable individuals.  And they should be judged as that.”

LANDON: One of the key problems in addressing gender issues is how to ensure at the practical level, that women have equal opportunities.  Here’s Sheryl Sandberg again.

SANDBERG:   “Organizations need to address the institutional barriers we all know about: the overt discrimination, the non-overt discrimination, the lack of flexibility.  But I think what the situation really calls for right now, in addition to that, is a much more open dialogue about gender, because we are all determined and we are all judged and held-back by very gender-determined stereotypes, and this is a conversation people rarely have, and no one has in companies.”

GANZER: While there have been strides towards gender equality, most of the women we spoke with said…more needs to be done. I’m Tony Ganzer

LANDON: And I’m Vincent Landon

‘Arab Uprisings’

There’s plenty of attention here on the economies of developed countries but events in the Middle East and North Africa are not far from the minds of those here in Davos.

They were the subject of a keynote address by United Nations Secretary General Ban Ki-moon

BAN: “I’d like to use this platform today to use a call to action on two immediate crises: the death-spiral in Syria and the widening turbulence in Mali and the Sahel.”

Mr. Ban said the international community needed to come together to end the ongoing violence in the two countries and ensure assistance is available to those in need.

But he also highlighted the wider uncertainty regarding the so-called “Arab Spring.”

BAN: “People experience new freedoms, but worry just the same about jobs and instability.  The winds of the Arab Spring have swept away some repressive rulers, but left many questions swirling in the air.”

One of those questions Is can democracy really take hold in the region?  And given that today is the second anniversary of protestors flooding into Cairo’s Tahrir Square, here’s former Secretary General of the Arab League and one-time Egyptian presidential candidate Amr Moussa

MOUSSA: “So far my answer would be ‘Yes, but…’ The president, President Morsi, is in his office due to elections.  What we need is a sustainable democracy, not just a democracy that brings a president for once, or a parliament for once. This depends on the position taken by the people, and I believe most Egyptians now, and in the Arab world, believe democracy is the solution.”

Cynical observers of the Middle East have pointed to a long tradition of strongmen and dictatorships suppressing democracy movements but Navi Pillay, UN High Commissioner for Human Rights says this time is different.

PILLAY: “When there is such a fundamental change, responding to the calls on the street for civil and political rights; economic and social rights; human rights, there will never be a situation where the dictatorship that reigned before will prevail again.”

Though much attention has focused on the Egyptian uprising, it all beganin Tunisia.  So how’s that country faring, a question I put to Mustapha Nabli is an economist from Tunisia and former Central Bank governor.

NABLI: “Broadly speaking, there is a small recovery, a weak recovery, but economic and other financial indicators are not doing well. Unemployment is still very high. The financial indicators are turning to orange, if not red, in terms of the deficits, the external balance of payments deficit, the fiscal deficit, the debt situation and so on. So the situation is tight, the outlook is not as positive as one would like it to be and this is essentially linked to the political situation because the political situation is still stuck.”

I wanted to ask you about the political implications of this.

NABLI: “I think the political situation is really creating the economic, and we can talk about the impact of the economic situation on the political situation as we go down the road, but for now I think the most important impact is the direction of the political transition which is not going as fast and as clearly as it should be and this is creating a lot of uncertainty, creating a lot of unease and investment is not picking up and economy is in a difficult situation.”

What would you like to see coming into force?

NABLI: “What I would like to see is really the political transition move forward more clearly, more speedily. We need to have a timeframe for the constitution being completed, for new elections being prepared, for political stability to return, for security to improve. These are the prerequisites for the economy to start improving again.”

Inside the Congress CentreInside the Congress Centre

It’s been hard at times to get a comprehensive picture of what’s happening across the region. Information often comes in fragments – the only source: reports based on unverified videos. This is especially the case in Syria, but one U.S. journalist, Lara Setrakian, used her contacts at Davos, to create Syria Deeply, a platform for comprehensive news coverage of the country.  It launched last month. I asked her why Syria prompted the innovation.

SETRAKIAN: “It was the right idea at the right time. We need to do news better.  We need to cover these critical issues better. The humanity behind the headlines not just guys with the guns and the money, but the civilians who feel these conflicts need a voice. And for the first time in our journalistic history, it’s very possible to see all sides, to capture 360 degrees or at least more of those degrees.  So it was the possibility that technology and innovation makes possible but it was also the sense that the time has come and there was such a stark difference between the criticality and the importance of that issue and the degree to which people understand it. They don’t understand it nearly well enough.”

What do you think about the state of foreign reporting in general, especially from the Middle East.

SETRAKIAN: “I think it’s incredibly sad. I think the fact that cost-cutting at major news organisations has been a basically commercial decision with broad public policy and public service implications. And then most importantly, I find, when you don’t have reporters based abroad from Switzerland, from the U.S. or from anywhere else,  your country’s knowledge pool suffers. You don’t have the person in your camp with the depth of expertise to raise their voice at the appropriate time. If we use our expertise as journalists to translate these complex issues and use technology to convey those complex ideas, we can change a whole generation’s perception of what is happening in the world.  So what we are doing with Syria Deeply is building a website and then working with the teacher’s associations in America to turn it into open courseware so a programme called Teach Syria is going to be rolled out on February 1 using our content to help school teachers in America teach kids from age 10 to 16 what’s happening in the Syria crisis in very basic terms.”

Setrakian says this model could be used for any number of topics – Eurocrisis Deeply, Drugs War Deeply, Gun Control Deeply.

But while the web can be a tool. It also must be treated with caution. So says Tim Berners-Lee, the man credited with inventing the World Wide Web.

BERNERS-LEE: “I have been talking about the stability of the social network.  Whether, the question is, when somebody has an idea or puts something out there and it propagates outward, is the system something that will test it for truth?  Have we designed our social networking systems so that the human race can have a rational discussion?  When we build new social networking systems we need to really think about the effect they are going to have on the conclusions people come to,  and whether they tend to make the truth surface, or whether they end up with the truth being buried.”