Women's role in both society and the workplace were one of the key themes in Davos this week. Nobel Prize winner Malala spoke about the importance of education for girls, Oxfam's Winnie Byanyima explained the need for women to acquire power whilst Justin Trudeau was empassioned about equality.

A panel, not a 'manel'

The Co-Chairs for the 48th Annual Meeting come from a cross-section of business, politics, academia and civil society. All seven are women.

In their introductory session, Chetna Sinha, Founder and Chair of the Mann Deshi Foundation said she is a voice for the fractured world, and called on financial access for everyone. She announced an alternative investment fund for female entrepreneurs.

Meanwhile Erna Solberg, Prime Minister of Norway, called for action on gender equality. Education is the first step, making sure that girls take a full part in education.

Educating boys on girls

The education of young men on the subject of women’s rights is a crucial step to ending gender inequality, Malala said during her session in Davos.

“When we talk about feminism and women’s rights, we’re actually addressing men,” she said.

Men have a big role to play … We have to teach young boys how to be men. In order to be a man you have to recognize that all women and all those around you have equal rights and that you are part of this movement for equality.”

Inequality hits women hardest

According to a new Oxfam report released during the Annual Meeting, eighty two percent of the world's wealth generated last year went to the richest 1% of the global population. That inequality, says Oxfam's Winnie Byanyima, hits women harder than men

Across the world, women consistently earn less than men and are usually in the lowest paid and least secure forms of work. By comparison, 9 out of 10 billionaires are men.

Oxfam's report, Reward Work, Not Wealth, is available here.

In the Big Tech, Big Impact session, Ursula Burns, chairwoman of telecoms operator VEON, says that men must step up to solve the inequality problem.

Putting women first

Pulling no punches was Canadian Prime Minister, Justin Trudeau, who told Davos in his special address: It’s time to put women first.

"I’m talking about hiring, promoting and retaining more women,” he said. "Not because it’s the right thing to do, or the nice thing to do, but because it’s the smart thing to do."

He told company leaders to review leave policies, review benefits, promote women to senior positions, consider quotas and to be transparent on their numbers - to get the best from women in the workforce.

Alibaba founder and Executive Chairman Jack Ma says he is trying to support women in his organisation, and believes women must have a meaningful place in the workplace. "Women balance-wise they’re the best," he said during a Meet the Leader session. "If you want your company to be successful; if you want your company to operate with wisdom, with care, then women are the best.

"37% of senior management in Alibaba are women. Part of the 'secret sauce' of our success is because we have so many women colleagues."

Women need choices

Bollywood mega-star Shah Rukh Khan started his participation at this year’s Annual Meeting by receiving a Crystal Award for his work in championing women’s and children’s rights in India.

In a one on one session at the meeting he spoke powerfully about the need for change in the way women are treated in society: “A women is not allowed in a society to assert her choice… there are different ways and methods and levels of brutalization that men go to so that women don’t assert their choice and this is the most brutal.”

You can read more about gender parity in this digest of our Global Gender Gap Report 2017.