It's haunted me -- the row of V.I.P's seated on a stage, with WORLD ECONOMIC FORUM printed over their heads, and above their chairs. I wondered which of the world's huge problems they were trying to solve. They looked important. I wondered if that one woman in the picture was Sheryl Sandberg, Chief Operating Officer of Facebook.
I checked. She wasn't in this picture, but she was at this conference, talking as she often does, about the role of women. No doubt about it, she's a very powerful woman who's affecting women throughout the world, but "gender equality" is not one of my priorities.
Googling, I learned that the World Economic Forum. W.E.F. is an annual get-together in Davos, a mountain resort in the eastern Alps region of Switzerland. The attendees -- top business leaders, heads of state, ministers, CEO's of international organizations, heads of think tanks, religious leaders of different faiths -- come to these meetings to share what they and their countries are doing, learning, seeing, feeling, and fretting about. What they discuss will affect global decisions that will be made in the coming years.
W.E.F. was put together in 1971 by German-born Klaus Schwab, Professor of Business Policy at the University of Geneva. He liked the idea of top guys getting together in the relaxing environment of a luxurious ski resort, discussing this and that.
The get-togethers at the ski resort have grown over the years. Guys who attend proudly call themselves Davos men. The annual meeting this year was three days long with about 2500 notables from about 100 countries discussing technology's affect on people, gender equality, also health, education, poverty, climate change, and more. On YouTube, there are 127 videos of the January 2015 meetings.
I browsed. I have to admit, I get turned off by lectures, chats, discussions that are loaded with facts, numbers, percentages, polls -- all those facts that research corporations gather to make sure that we know that they are in touch with plain ordinary folks like us. So, I find myself wondering if everyone's impressed by W.E.F? Does anyone, other than me, feel sort of left out?
The fact is, ever since Sheryl Sandberg coined the idea of leaning in -- I know she lost her husband quite recently and feel sympathy for her -- even so, I've been leaning out. If women are, in fact, holding up the world, I don't want to be one of the holder-uppers.
Do their decisions affect you and me? Probably. What's discussed trickles down, and when 2500 Davos aficionados went home, as usual, it was shared, and affected local legislation, media, and business, which undoubtedly affected other regions, but it seems far away from anything that touches me and my life.
I read Al Gore's summary of the 5 most important things that come from these W.E.F. meetings (Hey, I love Gore for what he said and did when George Bush was not quite elected back in 2000.) I read Gore's "First Important Thing." I struggled with his "Second Most Important Thing," got sleepy by the "Third," and never got the gist of the fourth and fifth things -- Gore's writing is about three degrees too abstract for me.
Hey, Sheryl, I bumped into this fact. In 2014, 17% more females were equal with males, up from 9% in 2000. (Mathematically that means it could be 81 years for women to reach economic equality with men.)
Other highly regarded men feel W.E.F's global views are not very significant. One of them mentioned how long it takes new ideas to take hold -- it took 50 years for the benefit of electricity to filter through our county.
Well, Davos guys, even if it does take another 49 years, big thanks for helping to shape and focus the world on the environment, climate, health, and racial equality.
Hey, racial things -- that's major important right now -- hurray World Economic Forum -- that touches all of us Americans -- that certainly touches me!