The percentage of women at Davos is greater than ever before

Christine Lagarde, head of the International Monetary Fund, is one of the 696 women expected at Davos this year
Christine Lagarde, head of the International Monetary Fund, is one of the 696 women expected at Davos this year
Image: AP Photo/Markus Schreiber
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For the fifth year in a row, gender diversity at the World Economic Forum’s annual conference in Davos, Switzerland, has improved. Twenty-two percent of  participants expected at this year’s elite gathering will be women, according to the World Economic Forum, higher than ever before.

Quartz started analyzing the gender breakdown at Davos in 2013, at which point 17% of participants were women. The following year, women’s participation dropped to 15%, but each year since has seen small improvements in representation. In 2018, 21% of attendees were women.

Using a list of attendees made public by the World Economic Forum, Quartz found that of just over 3,000 participants expected at Davos this year, 696 are women. Numbers of actual participants will likely change, however, as delegates make last-minute cancelations.

Of the 114 countries attending this year, the United States’ delegation of 790 people is the largest by far. However, Norway has the highest ratio of female attendees, at 37%.

A breakdown of attendees by sector reveals that women are most represented in the public sector, which includes civil society, the arts, and academia. Three in 10 participants in the public sector are women. The energy industry, by contrast, fares the worst: Only one in 10 Davos delegates from this group are women.

While another year’s increase should be celebrated, the percentage of women at Davos is still disappointingly low. At 22%, it’s just shy of proportion of women—23%—that hold seats in the US congress.

Participation at Davos is primarily by invite, and conference attendees are drawn largely from the c-suite, where under-representation of women has long been the norm. Less than 5% of S&P 500 CEOs are women—that’s just 24 companies. We can’t know how many of those 24 were invited to the event in Davos, but the official attendance list includes four of their names: Heather Bresch, CEO of Mylan N.V.; Adena Friedman, CEO of  Nasdaq Inc.;  Vicki Hollub, CEO of Occidental Petroleum Corp.; and Ginni Rometty, CEO of IBM.

For more on delegates, use our tool to explore the list of those expected to attend, according to the Forum. You can follow the rest of Quartz’s coverage here, or sign up for our free Davos Daily Brief to keep abreast of the developments this week.

Clarification: This story has been updated to reflect that the World Economic Forum says 22% of this year’s attendees are female. An earlier Quartz analysis, based on a list of expected Davos attendees, put that figure at 23%.