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Report from Davos—Seven Years Later, a New Era of Women’s Leadership

I recently returned from my seventh trip to the flagship World Economic Forum’s Annual Meeting in Davos and for the first time, things felt different. The tidal wave of change was palpable. As widely reported, WEF had seven women chairing the meeting, along with an “Equality Lounge” that was packed to the brim each day of the conference—and enough gender equality-focused sessions to fill up everyone’s (already packed) schedules. The only word that featured more prominently in the programs than women was blockchain. Except one of those two things (I promise you) is not a bubble.

In a sense, the current U.S. socio-political climate unleashed a robust political movement nationwide, with more women running for offices at all levels. And #MeToo unleashed a social movement against sexual abuse and harassment—particularly in the workplace, but also across all spheres of everyday life. Those instances have resonated globally.

What we need now is an economic movement to balance ownership of the world’s resources. And I strongly believe that tech can be an engine to either close the gap—or to exponentially increase it.

It’s at this critical moment when our Solver teams can be transformative. They’re deploying daily innovations that make a dent in the vast economic opportunity gender gap. Their solutions ensure that girls on their periods don’t miss school (Saathi), teach girls to love code (Erase All Kittens) and engineering (Girls Who Build), increase income of women small holder farmers (TruTrade), give a second chance at life to human trafficking survivors (AnnieCannons), employ female healthcare providers in high security settings (DoctHers) and provide access to a global marketplace for women small business owners from Afghanistan to Mexico (Digital Citizen Fund).

Solver teams are doing a lot to change the game. But in isolation, their impact is limited. This is why at Solve, with UN Women, SAP and 23 other corporate companies, we launched the Global Innovation Coalition for Change in September along with its #SheInnovates program. This is the power of networks to send the ripples of impact into far flung places—where Internet is spotty and smart phones are owned by the male head of the household.

Perhaps as Oprah famously said at this year’s Golden Globe awards—a “new day is on the horizon” for girls and women across the world. We just need to embrace tech-powered entrepreneurs the world over. If I’m lucky enough to head to Davos for the eighth time, I look forward to seeing the progress we make after these brave women—and pioneering entrepreneurs—gain even more of a voice, and market share. 

A panel from the Equality Lounge in Davos featuring Ann Rosenberg, Nate Hurst, Michelle King, and Hala Hanna. (Photo courtesy of The Female Quotient)

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