Eight things Davos thinks “we need to talk about”

Here we go again.
Here we go again.
Image: World Economic Forum
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The theme of the World Economic Forum in Davos this year is “Creating a Shared Future in a Fractured World.” The official program features more than 400 sessions over four days (Jan. 23-26), heavy on the economic and geopolitical abstractions for which the elite gathering has become (in)famous. Expect earnest panel discussions between world leaders and captains of industry about “skilling up for the fourth industrial revolution” and “navigating a multipolar and multiconceptual world.”

So far, so Davos.

But over the past year, the typical forum delegate—a white, male executive—has seen the status quo upended. Sexual harassment scandals have roiled business and politics, while patience for the slow pace of progress on gender, race, and sexual orientation equality is wearing thin.

Guys, we need to talk about some things.

That’s why the Davos planners have identified eight thorny societal issues to be discussed in a series of panels that begin with “We Need to Talk About.” The prominence of these sessions is hampered by their location in The Loft (pdf), a small space with a capacity of 25 adjacent to the main Congress Center, where activities are not livestreamed. But it is still telling that the sessions are being held at all, and also that the first one is about “privilege.”

Tuesday, Jan. 23

  • 2:00pm (local Swiss time): “We Need to Talk About: Privilege”
    How can we have a constructive dialogue about the effects of class privilege?
    Parvathi Santhosh-Kumar, Director, Network Learning, StriveTogether; Srinath Sridharan, Member, Group Management Council, Wadhawan Group
  • 3:30pm: “We Need to Talk About: Immigration”
    How can we have a constructive dialogue about immigration?
    William Lacy Swing, Director-General, International Organization for Migration

Wednesday, Jan. 24

  • 10:45am: “We Need to Talk About: Harassment”
    How can we create a safe space to talk about harassment?
    Bineta Diop, Founder and President, Femmes Africa Solidarité; Kathleen Rice, Congresswoman from New York (D), 4th District; Brian Schmidt, Vice-Chancellor, Australian National University
  • 2:15pm: “We Need to Talk About: Religion”
    How can we have a constructive dialogue about religion?
    Brie Loskota, Executive Director, Center for Religion and Civic Culture, University of Southern California; Hamza Yusuf Hanson, President, Zaytuna College
  • 3:45pm: “We Need to Talk About: Mental Health”
    How can we erase the social stigma associated with mental illness?
    Chris Underhill, Co-Founder, citiesRISE; Kwiri Yang, Founder and CEO, Socha Connect


Thursday, Jan. 25

  •  10:45am: “We Need to Talk About: Race”
    How can we have constructive dialogue about race?
    Shamiso Kumbirai, Water Engineer, Aurecon; Jim Wallis, President and Founder, Sojourners
  • 2:15pm: “We Need to Talk About: LGBTQ Identity”
    How can we erase the social stigma around LGBTQ identity?
    Beth A. Brooke-Marciniak, Global Vice-Chair, Public Policy, EY

Friday, Jan. 26

  •  10:45am: “We Need to Talk About: Disability”
    How can we erase the social stigma associated with disability?
    Shona McDonald, Executive Director, Shonaquip; Tiffany Yu, Founder, Diversability