Deloitte CEO on How Davos Revealed a ‘Real Opportunity’ for Women
2016 is here, and CEOs around the world are running scared. Yet Deloitte LLP chief Cathy Engelbert remains optimistic, focusing on the silver lining in our cloudy future.
The theme of this year’s annual World Economic Forum meeting in Davos, Switzerland was the fourth industrial revolution, which the WEF describes as “a fusion of technologies that is blurring the lines between the physical, digital, and biological spheres.”
According the Forum’s The Future of Jobs report, published last week, this revolution will result in the loss of 5.1 million jobs between now and 2020 due to “disruptive labor changes,” such as the rise of robotics and artificial intelligence. As Fortune has previously reported, women are likely to be hit hard by those losses, particularly when it comes to STEM jobs and other roles that are expected to have the most growth in the next five years.
Yet Engelbert, one of the few female CEOs at confab, isn’t letting the “Davos doom and gloom” get to her. “I think this is a real opportunity for women,” she says of the labor market challenges. While she acknowledges that she’s one of a very small group of female CEOS, she says she has utmost confidence that the rising generation of female leaders.
“Just walking around, I met so many women CFOs and COOs,” she says of her time at Davos. Moreover, the younger generation of Forum attendees seemed to be made up of as many women as men, she noted. According to Saadia Zahidi, head of employment and gender initiatives at the WEF, Engelbert is correct on that point. In an e-mail to Fortune, Zahidi reports that women made up 50% of this year’s class of Global Shapers (leaders under 30) and 46% of Young Global Leaders (leaders under 40).
“I see women coming up in the ranks,” says Engelbert. “I think we can drive skill sets up for all employees.”
How do we do that when women bear so much of the burden of taking care of others? Engelbert, no. 21 on Fortune‘s list of Most Powerful Women and a panelist at Davos this year, insists that women can indeed “have it all.” The key, she says: “Don’t let having it all be defined by someone else.” (To read more advice from the most powerful women in business, subscribe to the Broadsheet.)
For Engelbert, success isn’t about balancing work and family life—it’s about integrating them in ways that make sense for her. The mother of two brings up the in-case-of-emergency airplane rule we all have memorized by heart: “Put on your oxygen mask before helping young children,” she quips. In the same way, women need to focus on their own well-being before switching their attention to others.
“Women shouldn’t aspire to a box or a title,” she advises. “They should look toward being leaders.”