As world leaders met on a global stage for the World Economic Forum in Davos, Switzerland this past week, it wasn't hard to notice that something was missing. Women make up half of our planet's population, yet this year only 15 percent of the attendees at one of the world's most important gatherings of decision makers and influencers were female.
To be clear, the Forum does not itself have control over the gender balance of the attendees, who are self-selected to attend by WEF's membership organizations, drawn from business, government and civil society. "If we hold the glass up to global leadership, the reflection that comes back is this," says Adrian Monck, Managing Director of Communications for the Forum. "And," he agrees, "it's just not good enough."
In contrast, when the Forum selected 50 of its own Global Shapers to represent the voice of the millennial generation at Davos, it ensured that a full 50 percent of invitees were women. The Shapers are the Forum's future-focused community of leaders under the age of 30 who are committed to changing the world for the better (and of which I am a member.)
Our generation has been producing some truly powerhouse young women, who are the beneficiaries of decades of hard-fought progress that we must continue to accelerate. These young women (and men) are torch bearers of a Millennial vanguard that is already challenging the global status quo and reshaping what power looks like in the 21st century.
So there is good news and bad news.
The good news is the pipeline is strong. The bad news is that we can't wait 20 years.
This is a structural problem. The low number of women at Davos is indicative of the troubling, everyday gender gap in leadership that exists worldwide and often goes unnoticed until thrust upon on a global stage. Today, only 11 percent of heads of state and 5 percent of Fortune 500 CEOs are female, according to the WEF Global Gender Gap Report 2013.
Yes, we need more women in Davos. But the bigger picture in gender equality is that we need more women in every facet of public leadership, from corporate boardrooms to the halls of parliament to the airwaves of mass media. And until we reach parity, half of the world's population will continue to be underrepresented in their place at the table.
In the meantime, the women of the world are taking matters into their own hands.
Analisa Balares, Founder and CEO of Womensphere, has created a global campaign to help close this gap in representation, by inviting women (and men) to raise their voices online in support of #DavosWomen. As is indicative of the times we live in, it is driven by social media, that great democratizer of public discourse. Balares is herself one of the Forum's Young Global Leaders, a community of leaders under the age of 40.
We invite you to join the conversation. We also ask women and men everywhere to pledge their year-round support for initiatives both globally and locally that help educate girls, promote women's leadership and ensure more inclusive decision-making in all societies.
Here's to the women of Davos: past, present and -- mostly importantly -- future.