THE BLOG
01/21/2015 03:28 pm ET Updated Mar 23, 2015

Welcome to Davos 2015

This week, I will once again join business and government leaders at the 45th annual World Economic Forum.

It is a privilege returning to Davos for many reasons -- not least because of sharing a platform with 40 heads of state and government, as well as 2,500 other leaders from business and society. I look forward to discussing the world's most challenging issues within the "new global context" -- the theme of this year's Forum.

We are meeting against this backdrop of mega trends that change the world as we know it -- shifts of geopolitical and economic power from West to East; demographic issues such as aging populations and youth unemployment; the rise of technology and its disruptive impact on traditional business models; and the ethical and legislative challenges of bio/nanotechnology which will enable us to control evolution -- to name just a few.

The world needs new ways of thinking about and responding to long standing problems. That's why one issue I will raise in my meetings this week is that business and governments need to work more closely together to address many of the issues we face. In this context, I have long advocated for increasing diversity and giving voice to all the best thinkers to enrich the discussion. Putting the right policies and legislation in place, addressing conscious and unconscious bias and providing the necessary leadership support are vital to achieving this.

Within this context, as leaders on the global stage, we must continue our focus on accelerating women's representation in the workforce and in public life as an essential part of creating a better working world and adding to our success as a society. This week, we again see the problem right before us at Davos. Only 17 percent of participants at this year's Forum are women. We must do better.

For this reason, I especially look forward to joining a panel discussion on Thursday in Davos with several other high-profile public sector figures hosted by the Women in Parliaments Global Forum and EY. We will discuss why governments, now more than ever, require a diverse group of leaders to devise and implement policies that confront the most pressing public concerns.

The lack of female representation in our national legislatures, and in ministerial positions, matters every bit as much as it does in the corporate boardroom. We have made progress in this area, but it has been too slow, with just one woman for every four men serving in national parliaments across the G20. The Women in Parliaments Global Forum estimates that women occupy only 20 percent of lower-level parliamentary seats, on average, internationally. More must be done to encourage women to have careers in politics and business at the highest level.

Using the talent of women can bring powerful positive change and increase the likelihood of better outcomes for us all. A recent IMF study for example noted that

raising the female labor force participation rate to country-specific male levels would, for instance, raise GDP in the United States by five percent, in Japan by nine percent, in the United Arab Emirates by 12 percent, and in Egypt by 34 percent.

Reports by both by EY and the World Economic Forum support the view that the presence of women in leadership positions makes a real difference. Women are more likely to act in a bipartisan manner and are more likely to surface new ideas and bring new issues to the policy table. No matter what industry women serve in, we need to get the right support in place to enable women to pursue education and careers. We need to ensure that leadership candidates everywhere are sourced from all the best talent available across society to solve the challenges -- and grasp the opportunities.

The aim of Thursday's discussion is to elevate this issue with the world's leadership in attendance at Davos. Our conversation is to shed light on what interventions are necessary to accelerate gender equity at all levels of the professional world and to commit to removing the obstacles that stand in the way of talented women and to foster and support their career aspirations. Our societies will be enriched when there are more women in top positions across politics, the public sector and in business.

Stay tuned for my next post, which will offer insight into my on-the-ground observations of the 2015 World Economic Forum.

Uschi Schreiber, EY Global Vice Chair Markets, Uschi.Schreiber@eyop.ey.com