Jealous Davos Mistresses by Anya Schiffrin

February 14, 2011

Of Snubs and Men

The point about Davos is that it makes everyone feel wildly insecure. Billionaires and heads of state alike are all convinced that they have been given the worst hotel rooms, put on the least interesting panels and excluded from the most important events/most interesting private dinners. The genius of World Economic Founder Klaus Schwab is that he has been able to persuade hundreds of accomplished businessmen to pay thousands of dollars to attend an event which is largely based on mass humiliation and paranoia.

Wives feel sympathetic to their husbands and share their pain. But we have our own problems to cope with. After all, we are the on the bottom rung of the Davos ladder.

The most revealing sign of our lowly status is that we are forced to wear the ultimate badge of shame — the white name tag.

Here is how it works: everyone at Davos has to wear a name tag and these are color coded by status/occupation (speaker, organizer, journalist etc). Usually these name tags include some kind of affiliation, such as the company or organization you work for.

But wives’ name tags state only their name. This means there is nothing on it that could help a stranger strike up a conversation. If you don’t use your husband’s name then you are guaranteed virtual anonymity. Upon being introduced to someone new, the normal Davos gesture is not to look at the face of the person they are meeting but to look down at his/her name tag.

The wives’ name tag guarantees that the Davos man in question will instantly decide you are of no value and so he immediately looks over your shoulder for the next best opportunity, i.e. someone without a white name tag who is, by definition, more important than you. Many wives refuse to be Davos wives and the white name tag is the reason they most often cite for their decision to stay home.

I have often thought that the WEF should put something, anything, on the wives’ name tags just so as to give us a talking point. I wouldn’t mind wearing a tag that read “loves cooking” or “adores cats” (Not really. I hate ‘em.) Anything so that someone who actually wanted to talk me would know how to strike up a conversation.

People lose their heads in this hothouse atmosphere and behave in ways that they probably would never even consider in another setting. My own introduction to Davos’ competitiveness was years ago. The husband and I had just arrived from a night flight and a limo ride to our spartan but centrally-located hotel room. We dropped off our bags and staggered over to the Congress Centre to pick up our name tags. Winding through the little corridor on the way to the registration we ran into an old colleague of my husband. We stopped to say hello and were greeted with a gloating reply: “I see my book got a better review than yours did in the New York Review of Books this year.” (!).


Another time I was sitting at a lunch next to a tycoon who happens to be a close friend. Without a word of apology, a woman rushed over and took him away so he could sit up front with the VIP giving a lunch talk, leaving me stranded. Needless to say I am used to being abandoned for a better offer but as it happened, the tycoon and my husband already had a small meeting scheduled with the VIP the next morning. They didn’t need this randomly pushy woman to provide an introduction.

But if wives have it bad, mistresses, who are invited under a variety of guises and usually wind up with a white name tag, have it worse. Typically their men are swallowed up by a tsunami of meetings and interviews and don’t have the time or inclination to take their mistresses around with them. Often these men go to high-level dinners to which wives and mistresses are not invited. The skinny and beautifully dressed Davos Mistress typically hangs around the auditoriums waiting for a couple of minutes with her man. While waiting, she keeps her eyes peeled looking to search and destroy the competition.

The only thing worse than a white pass, is no pass. Rumor has it (heard first-hand from more than one jealous Davos Mistress) that there are legions of women — let’s call them the aspiring mistresses — who do not get a coveted Davos invitation and badge and so can not enter the Congress Centre but who come anyway. They book a hotel room and prowl the streets hoping to snare their prey. They are the worst enemies of the Davos Mistress.

Big dinners and the Saturday night soiree present another ugly dilemma for the Davos Mistress. If her man does not want to take her or has to go to a small working dinner, she faces a quandary. Does she go to the gala and hope to find another man, one who could perhaps become a boyfriend who will eventually marry her? Unseemly as it is to trawl for new prospects while officially at Davos as a companion to her man, it makes sense to use the World Economic Forum as a place to find a better boyfriend. Does she go back to the hotel room and simply wait for her man to return? Or does she find a gay friend and get him to take her out in the evenings? Many a Davos mistress has suffered greatly from her ambiguous position.

Wives, mistresses, girlfriends. We are the hangers-on, the bottom feeders of the great circus that is the World Economic Forum. The pit in my stomach tells me it’s time to get ready for another trip to Davos. But the rubbernecking is irresistible. Soon I will be hanging around the coffee bar with the other Davos Wives watching the endless parade of strutting movie stars, presidents, former senators, zillionaires and has-beens pass me by.

Source: reuters blog (2011)

The trouble with men by Gillian Tett

February 14, 2011

Amid the blizzard of analysis surrounding the recent World Economic Forum in Davos, one of the best essays, for my money, came not from any lofty politician or economist but from Anya Schiffrin, the wife of Joseph Stiglitz, the economist and Columbia University professor.

In a droll blog, Schiffrin (herself a journalist) described the humiliation that many “wives” experience when they accompany their husbands to Davos. Most attendees in Davos are men, and since everyone there is defined by a badge which reveals their job, wives turn into second-class citizens. “The most revealing sign of our lowly status is that we are forced to wear the ultimate badge of shame – the [plain] white name tag,” she explained. The only position lower is that of a Davos mistress, she adds; they usually don’t get a badge at all.

Welcome to one of the great embarrassments that hangs over Davos. In recent years the WEF has gone to elaborate efforts to show its political correctness, staging charity events and “green” recycling projects. Yet despite all this pious posturing,it is still grappling with one big, black mark in the area of gender diversity.

In recent years, the proportion of female delegates – excluding wives – has hovered around 8-15 per cent. And while the WEF tried to raise that ratio this year, insisting that women made up at least 20 per cent of all delegations, women still felt pretty thin on the ground. So much so, in fact, that Davos is one of the few places where the queues for the women’s restrooms can actually be shorter than those for the men’s. “We do want to create a better gender balance,” a WEF official earnestly assured me last week. “But unfortunately it is very hard. It will take time.”

Indeed. After all, the picture seen at Davos is hardly the WEF’s fault: most of the global business and political elite are men. And, personally, I am rather cynical about quotas; in my experience they tend to irritate not just men, but many women, too.

Nevertheless, as I listened to all this hand-wringing in Davos, I could not help being struck by a bitter sense of irony. A few weeks ago, I attended a debate on US labour market trends at the American Economics Association meeting in Denver, where the “gender issue” also came up. As in Davos, there was anguish in the air. But this time, the problem was not underperforming women, but poorly performing men.

The issue at stake, as David Autor, economics professor at Massachusetts Institute of Technology, explained, is that over the past three decades western women have made remarkable advances in educational attainment. Of male and female workers now aged 45-54, roughly equal numbers attended college. But for workers aged 25-34 in the US and most of Europe, “female rates of college attainment greatly exceed those of men”, by around 1.3 times, Autor notes. So too with US high-school diplomas.

This is having a big impact on job patterns, particularly in the US. More specifically, since many jobs now require educational qualifications, women have often hung on to their jobs more successfully than men, particularly in poorer and/or black communities. “Males as a group have adapted poorly to the challenges posed by the labour market developments of the last three decades – [they] appear to be falling in occupational stature,” Autor observed.

Worse still, these unemployed poor men are becoming increasingly marginalised from family life, as (largely employed) mothers decide they are better off “investing in the labour market than marriage”. Partly as a result, the percentage of men in prison among black high-school drop-outs is now a stunning 25 per cent. For black women, it is barely 3 per cent.

Such data is wildly sensitive in America – particularly since it flies in the face of the usual feminist debate about gender. Little surprise, then, that nobody in Denver was calling for quotas to help men. Instead, some (female) economists argued that what is occurring is simply a “rebalancing” of a formerly unequal world.

Nevertheless, Autor’s data show that the gender debate today has many sides – all of which need to be discussed, politically correct or not. A world where the global Davos elite are (almost exclusively) male is certainly not a good thing. But nor is a world plagued by marginalised, unemployed, uneducated, poor men. Perhaps those WEF organisers should stage a broader discussion on gender next year – with attention to both tales. Better still, why not get Anya Schiffrin to lead it – with or without a white “wife” badge.

Source: website (2011)

IFC Women in Business Program’s Third Quarter Edition – Global Newsletter: January 2011

February 10, 2011

In this issue you will find news on IFC and World Bank Group activities, including a Global Roundtable on Board Diversity. Global news includes information on the recently held OECD-supported conference to promote Women’s Entrepreneurship in Arab Countries. This issue’s spotlight falls on the Global Banking Alliance for Women which celebrated its 10th Anniversary.

This newsletter shares helpful news and information with women entrepreneurs around the world.

Click here to read the newsletter

The 25 most powerful women in banking

February 8, 2011

U.S. Banker has released its eighth installment of the magazine’s “25 Most Powerful Women in Banking.” This year there were seven newcomers to the list, and many familiar powerful names. The magazine also noted the “25 Women in Banking to Watch,” a comprehensive list of women on the way to shattering the glass ceiling.

The magazine ranks the women based on a wide range of criteria including one-year performance, the results of business initiatives, management style and overall influence.

Click here to view the magazine

Source: finbox website (2011)

No Return to the Gold Standard

February 8, 2011

The biggest challenges facing the world in 2011 are not the most obvious, says World Bank president Robert B. Zoellick.

Over the past year, emerging markets such as China, India, and Brazil have continued to drive economic growth, while the developed world, namely the United States and parts of Europe, have remained mired in debt and unemployment. In the lead-up to the World Economic Forum in Davos, NEWSWEEK’s R. M. Schneiderman interviewed World Bank presidentRobert B. Zoellick about the future of the global economy.

What is the biggest challenge facing the developing world in 2011?
The biggest challenge facing most developing countries is the risk of a big boost in food prices. Food accounts for a large and increasingly volatile share of family budgets for poor and urban families. When prices of staple foods soar, poor countries and poor people bear the brunt. France’s President Sarkozy, Chair of the G-8 and G-20 this year, has rightly identified this issue as a priority.

How can the globe assure food security in the face of rising prices?
There are two interrelated challenges. First, we need to increase food productivity and production in developing countries, especially in sub-Saharan Africa and with small-holder farmers. To do so, we need to fix problems all along the “value chain”: property rights; R&D for seeds and inputs; irrigation; fertilizer; agricultural extension; credit; rural infrastructure; storage; and connection to markets. The World Bank Group manages a Global Agriculture and Food Security Program, with contributions from six countries as of now and the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation, to help promote investments in small-holder farmers. In 2011, I hope we can get more contributions. Separately, the World Bank Group is boosting investment in agriculture to about $6-8 billion a year through our lending and investment projects.
The second problem is the volatility of food prices, often because of events outside poor countries’ control. An interconnected combination of steps could help ensure that the most vulnerable countries and people get the nutrition they need. For example, we can increase public information on the quality and quantity of grain stocks to reassure markets and calm panic-induced price spikes. We can improve long-range weather forecasting and monitoring, especially in Africa, to better prepare for dangers. Export bans exacerbate panic pricing, so we need a code of conduct that at least exempts humanitarian purchases from bans.

We can help small-holder farmers become a bigger part of the solution for food security through tenders from humanitarian purchasers such as the World Food Program. We need financial and other tools to help farmers and their governments manage risk, whether of rainfall, prices of inputs such as energy, or others. We may need small, regional humanitarian food reserves, too, in disaster-prone, infrastructure-poor areas. We should also ensure effective, targeted social safety nets so that we protect the most vulnerable populations, such as pregnant and lactating women and children under two. The bottom line: The G-20 should agree to “Put Food First.”

What about the world economy?
For the world economy as a whole, the macro challenge is managing and enhancing a modest multispeed recovery that must steer clear of various shoals: for major emerging markets, avoiding overheating or bubbles in certain sectors; for the EU, navigating through sovereign debt icebergs that could puncture big holes in the financial sector; for the US, creating jobs today while breaking the wave of structural spending and debt increases; for all, setting course to make structural reforms suited to each economy to boost growth and a rebalanced international economy.

What do you think will be the most contentious economic issue this year and why?
The contention flows from the tension in resolving challenges without burdening others. Because money is the medium that interconnects economies, differences will be reflected in complaints about the international monetary system; exchange rates for currencies; large and perhaps volatile shifts of capital; and domestic monetary policies that could have international effects.

These differences could spill over to other channels of interaction, such as protectionism in trade, uncompetitive favoritism of national companies and workers, or export bans of agricultural products. On the other hand, sustainable growth, with a rebalancing of demand both between domestic sources and trade, and across countries at various stages of recovery and development, could create win-win opportunities that ease tension.

What has been the biggest economic success story of 2010 and who appears poised to do well in 2011?
The growth in developing countries has been a particular bright spot. In fact, a key difference between this downturn and past ones is that developing countries stepped up to fill the gap. Developing countries now represent about half of global growth. This is a very different world from even ten years ago. It certainly is a stark contrast to the international economic crises in the 1970s, ’80s, and ’90s, sparked by problems in developing countries. Today, developing economies provide an important source of demand for exports from developed countries. And developing countries offer opportunities within a changing international economy: new, multiple poles of growth; investments and profits; better educated workforces that can add to innovation and productivity; more talent to solve problems; and sharing of responsibilities. Yet the adjustment process to a modernized multilateralism will be a constant and continuing challenge.

Will we see bubbles in any of the major emerging markets?
The developing world has been a source of strength, by and large. But the major emerging markets–China, India, Brazil, Southeast Asia–are starting to level off to avoid overheating or bubbles in some sectors. In some countries, this adjustment will prove a challenge–because of influences from the international economy or supply-side bottlenecks at home. The good news is that almost all are alert to the dangers and most seem able to manage them.

Looking ahead, we need to recognize there is no longer a “Third World.” Developing countries vary enormously. Yet they can learn from one another, invest in one another, trade with one another, and especially within geographical regions, increasingly integrate with one another.  The “Third World” mindset assumed a “North-South” transfer; our new multipolarity will see South-South, and even South-North transfers of goods, capital, and ideas, along with North-South and North-North exchanges.

This shift multiplies possibilities. But it will challenge policymakers in both developed and developing countries to adjust and shape new cooperative systems. The private sector is already doing so. And modernized multilateral institutions such as the World Bank Group need to adapt, too.

How can we reduce currency tensions between the U.S. and China?
There will be tensions, as monetary (and therefore currency) relations are a principal source of intermediation amidst the tectonic shifts to a new multipolar economy, even as we cope with the current great upheaval. Yet the currency issues should not divert attention from the underlying, fundamental challenges: rebalancing global demand and creating new opportunities for growth.

China and the U.S. are the two biggest economies, one developed and one developing. While I believe the Chinese should appreciate their currency over time, that change will not be a silver bullet. China needs structural changes to increase domestic demand through increasing consumption and lowering savings, especially the retained earnings of favored companies with low cost financing and limited competition. China will be pointing in this direction with its next (the 12th) Five Year Plan, but the shift won’t be easy.

The U.S. faces the reverse shift: It needs relatively higher savings and lower consumption. So the US will need structural reforms to cut the rate of increases in government spending and debt, while fostering incentives for growth and increases in productivity, innovation, and opportunity.

Similarly, other countries and regions need to face the structural and pro-growth challenges most important to their circumstances. This will not be easy, especially in economies with many unemployed, because political systems will strain under the pressures. Yet if countries slide into conflicts–instead of cooperating to find common but differentiated solutions – dangers could spiral downward.

Would a return to the gold standard be beneficial?
I think gold is already being viewed as an alternative monetary asset because holders of money perceive uncertain prospects in all countries and currencies other than China, and the renminbi is not free for exchange and investment. The antidote is for major economies to pursue sustainable, pro-growth policies based on structural reforms, open trade, and sound money. This is not the same as a gold standard, nor would I recommend a return to that standard or the old Bretton Woods system. We need to move toward flexible exchange rates and autonomous monetary policies for major economies in a new multipolar, international economy. This world economy is likely to evolve toward multiple reserve currencies, with the U.S. dollar still dominant, but not exclusive. This system will need norms of monetary and broader economic behavior with the IMF as a “referee,” [and] gold might be an informational, not operational, tool to assess markets’ confidence in underlying growth and monetary policies.

How can the U.S. reconcile the return of growth with persistent unemployment?
The demand for U.S. goods and services–whether from at home or abroad–has not been high enough to create sufficient new jobs. Yet at this point in the recovery, if big increases in demand were to come through much larger government spending and debt, private companies and individuals may become more cautious because of the fear of huge future costs.
Therefore, the U.S. needs a careful “handoff” to demand led by the private sector. Many bigger U.S. companies are profitable, productive, and have available cash. With the right policies on government spending, taxes, regulations, trade, and longer-term structural growth, these companies will invest, create more private sector jobs, and enhance America’s competitive strength. The same policies would assist small businesses, which have less leeway and a harder time getting credit. Even as the U.S. steers toward a recovery with more “demand,” it needs to foster the incentives, innovation, education, and investment to boost the medium- and long-term growth path.

In the absence of a true global climate accord, what role can the World Bank play to reduce emissions?
It would be a big mistake to wait for 195 countries to reach a huge new treaty on climate change. After the 2009 Copenhagen Summit, the World Bank Group worked with Mexico and others to advance key building blocks to address climate change. These included:  curbing emissions from deforestation and forest degradation; energy efficiency; alternative energies; technology development; carbon market development; carbon finance; adaptation; and relatively untapped tools such as soil carbon linked to better agriculture.

We can make progress and learn lessons on the ground while others negotiate texts. We can build support for addressing greenhouse gases by more countries–developing and developed–by putting concepts into practice. We can assist smaller and less powerful states–such as small island countries, poor mountain states, and sub-Saharan Africa–that otherwise feel ignored, perhaps tempting some to obstruct negotiations that they think do not take account of their interests. We can use our new Climate Investment Funds to leverage other sources of public and private funding–we are raising about $8 for every $1 we invest–to help developing countries move toward low carbon growth and adaptation through practical projects. We can try to ensure that the “perfect” isn’t the enemy of the “good.”

How important are cities to the climate change debate?
Cities are significant players in all aspects of climate change debate, with important policy choices to make. A recent World Bank report outlined that residents of cities around the world are responsible for as much as 80 percent of global greenhouse gas emissions while at the same time facing significant impacts from climate change, such as bearing the majority of $80-$100 billion per year climate adaptation costs.

Many major cities–such as New York, Mexico City, Amman, and Sao Paulo–are not waiting for a comprehensive and global climate deal. They are already acting on climate change by addressing mitigation and adaptation, connected to the delivery of basic urban services and overcoming poverty through local initiatives.

Cities have a unique position in confronting climate change because they are the optimum scale for action: large enough to enact meaningful pilots and introduce “first responder” programs, yet sufficiently close to the communities.

Cities need to draw ideas from one another, gain the support of their national governments, and leverage international partners. The World Bank Group is providing targeted assistance in urban areas such as Mexico City, Cairo, and Bangkok; it is also preparing detailed vulnerability assessments for several coastal cities. Together with the United Nations Environment Program and UN-Habit, the World Bank Group has jointly developed a work plan to provide faster and more coordinated assistance to cities.

What do you expect to come out of the meeting at Davos?
I expect attendees will discuss: the global recovery and its risks; food prices and food security; international monetary issues; opportunities to open markets to trade; gender and development; helping states coming out of conflict or disaster; and next steps on climate change. I hope participants will look “over the horizon” to try to anticipate what other issues policy-makers and business leaders should be addressing.

Davos is a forum to generate and discuss ideas. The actions will need to come from the G-20, international organizations, other fora, and from private sector institutions and individuals who can help solve problems. The seeds of ideas planted in Davos can be harvested elsewhere.

Who do you think will become the next major emerging economies?
I think all developing regions offer opportunities. To underscore this point, I believe that Africa can be a global pole of growth in coming years. Sub-Saharan Africa has already outpaced the global trend in 2010, with output at 4.7 percent, compared with a global increase of 3.9 percent. Looking forward, sub-Saharan Africa is projected to grow at 5-6 percent in coming year.

Africa is a continent of great diversity, so it’s hard to generalize. But we have a dynamic of roughly three different groups. First, about a third of the population is experiencing good growth. For them the challenges are access to energy, more infrastructure and agriculture investments, greater regional integration linked to global markets, and a stronger private sector. Another third of the people live in energy resource-rich countries. These countries need better governance, anti-corruption, and inclusive growth policies while avoiding the trap of enclave economies. Finally, another third lives in states paralyzed by conflict. The people in those countries need greater security, better governance, and longer-term support to promote peace and help restore a stable development path.

Before the crisis, African economies were growing at 5 percent a year for over a decade, accelerating to over 6 percent for the last three years. Poverty was declining by about one percentage point a year–a rate faster than in India. Before the crisis, primary school enrolment rates were rising faster than in any other continent. And in just 4 years, child mortality rates fell by 25 percent in about 13 countries.

Of course there is another side to that story–the nearly 400 million Africans who live on $1.25 a day; the massive infrastructure deficit that leaves only one in four with access to electricity–and even fewer with access to clean water and sanitation. There are other political and security challenges, such as recent breakdown in Cote d’Ivoire.

With the right policies and good governance, with support for infrastructure and skills-training, Africa can attract investment–to mutual benefit. With a sensible policy framework, the private sector has invested over $56 billion in mobile networks on the African continent, boosting the number of mobile subscribers in the region from 4 million to over 400 million.

Source: Newsweek website (2011)

The Search for a Few Good Davos Women by Lisa Kassenaar

February 8, 2011

The World Economic Forum wants to have more female attendees—without diluting the power pool

Last year on the way to the World Economic Forum’s meeting in Davos, investment banker Jane Gladstone unwrapped eyeshades for her flight—and then didn’t sleep a wink. In the next seat was Michele Burns, chief executive of Mercer, the Marsh & McLennan consulting unit. They talked through the night. “That’s a very Davos experience,” says Gladstone, who leads Evercore Partners’ financial services advisory business. The two women have since introduced each other to business contacts.

That’s the way things happen at Davos, but relatively few women have the opportunity to attend the big networking event in the Alps. About 16 percent of last year’s delegates were women, roughly the same as in 2005, according to the WEF. That’s up from 9 percent a decade ago, when organizers began to seek out more women.

To boost the number of female attendees, the forum’s 100 strategic partners—companies including Goldman Sachs and Volkswagen that donate more than $500,000 a year to the organization—have been asked to fill at least one of their five allotted Davos slots with a woman. “It’s a fairly aggressive policy,” says Saadia Zahidi, who heads the WEF’s gender parity program.

The problem for the WEF is that founder Klaus Schwab bills Davos as a meeting where elite leaders talk candidly about global problems, and there aren’t many women who run companies or countries. “What makes Davos Davos is that Bill Gates and Richard Branson and the Nobel Prize winners are there,” says Herminia Ibarra, a professor at French business school INSEAD. “Women are not at the top, and they want the top people.”

Of the world’s 500 biggest companies, fewer than 3 percent have female chief executives, and fewer than 20 countries are led by women, Zahidi says. “There is a pretty clear reason for why we have been wavering,” she says. “The reality is that there are very few women that occupy these positions.” This year’s suggested quota may double the number of women attending from the 100 companies, she says. The suggestion isn’t being heeded by everyone. Deutsche Bank (DB) has no women on its list, although it could have gained an extra slot if it had a female attendee.

A Davos roster that’s about 20 percent women won’t add a sufficient female perspective, says Marie Wilson, author of Closing the Leadership Gap: Why Women Can and Must Help Run the World. She thinks 30 percent would be a better minimum goal. “It’s really important to get those numbers. It would normalize the conversation and just take the gender issue off the table,” she says.

Mercer’s Burns points out that most companies have women who can carry their end of the conversation at Davos. “And if there isn’t one,” she says, “that’s a problem too.”

The bottom line: The WEF is encouraging companies to send more female executives to Davos. In 2010, 16 percent of attendees were women.


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