Friday 30 September 2016

Laura Whitmore in Davos: 'I was startled by how few women there are'

Laura Whitmore

Published 24/01/2016 | 02:30

Laura Whitmore
Laura Whitmore

Weird, definitely weird.

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High in the Swiss Alps in the achingly-hip ski resort of Davos, I was spinning discs at the World Economic Forum - the annual gathering of what some like to call the Oscars for world leaders, CEOs and very rich folk indeed.

In fact Davos is the highest town in Europe, and for one week a year this ski haven becomes the hottest place to be. Entirely important as the discussions are, it is the rather infamous parties that provoke most curiosity.

So, you have the likes of John Kerry, European Central Bank president Mario Draghi, David Cameron and even newly-elected Canadian prime minister Justin Trudeau rubbing shoulders with Bono, Kevin Spacey, Will.I.Am and Leonardo Di Caprio. It is both bizarre and intriguing.

What are they talking about? And more interestingly what are the parties like? Well one night Kevin Spacey was playing the piano in the bar deep into the wee small hours surrounded by squiffy senior bankers and some of the greatest intellects of the day.

I flew into Davos last Thursday to attend and DJ an event organised by BCG Digital Adventures, one of the top consultancy firms in the world, in the iconic Dome built especially for the forum.

Renowned photographer Kevin Abosch was also booked to take portraits of the guests. Kevin has taken pictures of everyone from Jonny Depp to Brian O'Driscoll. He is best known here in Ireland for the 'Faces of Ireland' campaign that decorated Terminal 2 of Dublin Airport.

Oh and there was a lot of cheese and a lot of good wine consumed by a whole lot of men. One of the most startling things about the forum in Davos was that I was one of very few women. Even on the plane over to Zurich from London I was surrounded by men in suits and could count the number of ladies on my fingers without even getting near to my toes.

Davos itself was no different. Apparently only one in five attendees is a women. The most powerful and richest people in the world are here. Where are all the women? We will never achieve gender equality unless everyone - girls, boys, women, men - are involved. Gender equality would be the "single biggest stimulus to the economy". That, in a nutshell, was actress Emma Watson's message in Davos, where she came to launch UN Women's new HeforShe website.

Women globally earn 24pc less than men for doing the same work, according to the UN - something that I think is very noticeable in most careers, including my own profession.

Watson, a UN Goodwill Ambassador, was interviewing 10 male CEOs on Thursday in Davos who have committed to advancing gender parity. Speaking to McKinsey CEO Dominic Barton about his company's latest findings on gender parity, she noted that full female participation in the workforce could increase GDP by $28 trillion within a decade, this backing up her comment "single biggest stimulus to the economy".

So why aren't we be being paid as much as our male counterparts and who is to blame? Well there isn't really any use in pointing fingers.

During the Sony debacle, Jennifer Lawrence famously said it wasn't the people who were paying her that were at fault, it was her own fault for not demanding she got the same as her male co-stars.

As women it's important to stand up for ourselves, and if we're being treated unfairly it's imperative we demand our equality just as much as those paying the cheques, be they male or female.

Sunday Independent

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