Wednesday, January 28, 2009

Another Departure from Reality in Davos

While there is no real need to compile a laundry list of all the ways in which the World Economic Forum (WEF) and its little party in Davos have lost their sense of reality, Morice Mendoza came up with some statistics for a background article for SPIEGEL ONLINE that really deserve to be shared:

There are only 4 women out of 22 on the foundation board (18 percent) and no women at all on the managing board, which is responsible for the operations and running of the WEF. There are 2 women among the 10 senior directors (20 percent), people responsible for subject areas within WEF. It is only lower down the management chain where you find the gender balance becomes healthier -- 52 percent of the directors are women. These people cover subject areas (e.g. security issues) and head functional areas such as accounting.

Loss of Talent and Perspective

Of the co-chairs -- very important figures who help to plan the Davos meeting -- only one of the seven is a woman: Maria Ramos, chief executive of Transnet, a South African freight, rail, and pipeline company. (Ramos announced recently that she had decided to step down from Transnet, after having turned the company around from a time when it had been, in her own words, a "value-destroying organ of the state.")

This dearth of women -- and the talent and different perspectives they could bring -- is reflected in the Davos event itself. The WEF has posted on its Web site an "abridged" list of business leaders who will attend this year. One has to assume it is a reasonably representative sample of the full list. Out of 81 people listed, only 4 are women -- under 5 percent

This raises a question (which hopefully is obvious to most): If both the Davos participants and the parent organization of the event provide such a poor sample of those who actually "make the economy work" (so to speak), should we attach any credibility to anything that gets said there? This leads to another question, which happens to come much closer to my own home: If the signal-to-noise ratio at Davos is so low, why is the Mayor of San Francisco hanging out there, instead of seeing to his "day job" at City Hall? Perhaps there is just something irresistible about being invited into this particular "garden of earthly delights," just as the surrealistic images of Hieronymus Bosch's eponymous triptych are so irresistible! Perhaps we should just recognize that this surreal world of the World Economic Forum has displaced that sense of reality and "is what it is" (in the immortal words of Jimmy McNulty of The Wire)! However, if their world is a surreal one, could it be that ultimately they live by André Breton's Manifestoes of Surrealism? If so, then we may wish to be particularly aware of one sentence from Breton's text:

We are the prisoners of the mechanical orgy pursued inside the earth, for we have dug mines, underground galleries through which we sneak in a band beneath the cities that we want to blow up.

Be on the lookout for flying shards of Alpine geology!

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