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The World Economic Forum's annual invitation-only meeting amidst the snow-capped mountains of Davos, Switzerland is a chance for the world's super-elite to network, strike deals, hobnob at black-tie dinners, and attend conferences with earnest, high-minded themes like "Shared Norms for the New Reality."

The issue: most of the people doing the deal-making and hobnobbing are men. WEF is trying to change that for its upcoming summit by requiring its corporate partners--who account for around a fifth of all attendees--to have at least one of their five delegates be a woman.

The Guardian reports that women have never made up more than 17 percent of Davos participants, adding that women represent less than 3 percent of chief executives for the world's largest 500 companies and occupy just over 15 percent of ministerial and parliamentary positions. Thus, WEF can certainly make the argument that their participants are simply "a reflection of the scarcity of women in this external pool," as Saadia Zahidi, author of this new quota plan, puts it. Clearly, though, WEF is now switching its strategy.

Here's some reaction to this new policy:

  • Abiding by Quota Could Be Difficult, says The Guardian's Elena Moya: "Critics may argue that one in five is actually a pretty small achievement, and real progress would call for two or three. Just finding one suitably senior candidate this year, however--given the gender balance in the global business elite--may prove enough of a challenge."
  • Davos Is Making a Sincere Effort, argues Andrew Hill at The Financial Times:

Its captive elite audience of business chieftains could have disproportionate clout if they sign up to some of the innovations on gender that will be floated there. A workshop on best practices in business, organised through the Gender Parity Group (50 men and 50 women from business), could send some important messages to the boardroom. A new global standard for gender equality, being developed separately by the Gender Equality Project, also has the potential to concentrate business leaders’ minds.

  • Will Davos Become More Social? wonders Jonathan Sibun at The Telegraph. He calls the quota a "break from the norm that will have many a Davos delegate looking forward to the apres-ski."
  • This Makes Me Uneasy, asserts Kirsty MacArthur of U.K.-based Heartwood Wealth Management, as quoted by The Wall Street Journal: "I feel uncomfortable with positive discrimination. Women should achieve success based on their own merit, not as part of a quota."
  • More Progress Needs to Be Made, states AMERICAblog's Chris in Paris: "The banking industry was always macho and since the crisis, it now has even fewer women in management. Northern Europe takes the issue seriously but outside of there, few countries (the US included) have made progress."

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