It’s no secret that Davos has a gender diversity problem. Of the some 2,500 participants in the World Economic Forum’s elite gathering this year, just 17 percent are women. Although organizers tried to increase the numbers by instituting a quota system for large companies — they must bring one woman for every four men — the amount of women only increased by 2 percent since last year.
So who are these select women in attendance? Some, such as Chancellor of Germany Angela Merkel and Yahoo (YHOO) CEO Marissa Mayer, are household names, but we combed the participant list and found so many influential women who are less well known. You may not have heard of the six women listed below, but trust us: you will be impressed by their accomplishments.
Valerie Amos is the outgoing Undersecretary-General for Humanitarian Affairs and Emergency Relief Coordinator at the United Nations. (She submitted her resignation in November, effective March 31.) Before being named to that post in 2010, she had held various high-level Cabinet positions in England. Born in Guyana, she was the first black woman to serve in the British cabinet and as Leader of the House of Lords. In her UN role, Amos has dealt with a range of complex issues, including the Ebola outbreak in Africa and the Syrian civil war. At Davos, she was a speaker on the panel, “Pandemics: Whose Problem?"
In 2013, Erna Solberg won election as Prime Minister of Norway. A former Girl Scout leader who overcame dyslexia, Solberg is the second woman in that job. Perhaps even more remarkable, she is the first Conservative in the top spot since 1990. In 2013, she was named a co-chair of the MDG Advocates, a group of prominent world leaders that promotes the United Nations' Millennium Development Goals (MDG). On Saturday at Davos, she was slated to host the conference's Millennium Development Goals' session entitled “Ending Poverty through Parity,” a discussion about the importance of investing in women and girls.
Since January 2014, Inga Beale has been the chief executive of Lloyd's of London, the venerable, tradition-steeped insurance giant. Beale was the first woman to hold that role in the firm's 325-year history. A former competitive rugby player who has spent decades in the male-dominated insurance industry, Beale has been described as a tough and unyielding champion of diversity. As CEO, she has embraced an ambitious plan to expand internationally.
Jennifer Doudna is a Professor of Biochemistry, Biophysics and Structural Biology at the University of California, Berkeley, and an investigator at the Howard Hughes Medical Institute in New York. In November 2014, she and a colleague, Emmanuelle Charpentier of the Helmholtz Center for Infection Research in Germany, won the $3 million Breakthrough Prize in Life Sciences for their work in creating a genome editing technology that could one day help end genetic diseases, like Huntington's Disease. At Davos, she spoke on a panel alongside Nobel Laureate Craig Mello on the topic of her award-winning work: genome editing and the genomic revolution.
Zhang Xin may not be a household name in the U.S. (yet), but as Fortune reported last week, the billionaire real estate magnate is "transforming Beijing's skyline." SOHO China, the company she co-founded with her husband, is one of the country’s largest property developers. Zhang has also vocally supported democracy, telling Lesley Stahl in a March 2013 "60 Minutes" interview that Chinese people want a democratic government — and predicting they would get one in less than 20 years.
Cecilia Alvarez-Correa Glen
Cecilia Álvarez-Correa Glen is Colombia's Minister of Commerce, Industry and Tourism. Although Colombia has several women in its cabinet, Álvarez-Correa Glen is the first openly gay cabinet member, according to according to La Nacion (via Colombia Reports.) In August 2014, she acknowledged having a relationship with Education Minister Gina Parody.