Diversity and Inclusion

This is how inclusion benefits the global economy, according to experts at Davos

Team with their hands piled together, signifying diversity and teamwork.

Inclusive economies are healthy economies. Image: Hannah Busin/Unsplash

Kate Whiting
Senior Writer, Forum Agenda
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Diversity and Inclusion

This article is part of: World Economic Forum Annual Meeting
  • The World Economic Forum's Annual Meeting in Davos emphasized the need to revive growth, but that future growth models must be different.
  • Excluding women, mothers, people with disabilities and LGBTQ+ people from the workforce and positions of power comes at a huge cost to the global economy.
  • Experts at Davos explained the economic benefits of inclusion and what needs to happen to create a more inclusive world.

“It's so important to bring gender parity to our countries and to our lives – for more productivity and a better economy for everybody.”

So said Gabriela Sommerfeld, Ecuador’s Minister of Foreign Affairs and Human Mobility, speaking at the World Economic Forum’s Annual Meeting in Davos.

She joined political and business leaders in a session to discuss the ‘Economics of Gender Parity’.

The Forum’s Global Gender Gap Report 2023, which measures four key gender gaps, found that the Economic Participation and Opportunity gap has only closed by just over 60%. But the longer it takes to close, the more the global economy is missing out. In 2020, the World Bank found that potential gains from closing economic gender gaps could unlock a “gender dividend” of $172 trillion for the global economy.

The state of gender gaps, by subindex
There is still a way to go to achieve gender parity in economic participation and opportunity. Image: WEF

Greater inclusion of women – and particularly mothers – in the workforce was just one of many crucial discussions at Davos that looked at how governments and businesses can be more inclusive to benefit everyone as well as the economy.

Here are some of the key quotes from leaders and experts.

On gender inclusion

“For Latin America, gender parity means $2.6 trillion. And what that means for the Ecuador economy is $46 billion,” said Sommerfeld.

“So we created a new ministry that provides education and access to financing and technology to women, which is very important to start changing women's lives so they become part of the economy.”

She said women ministers also now make up 50% of the country’s cabinet thanks to clear gender parity targets.

In the US, the lack of paid parental leave and high cost of childcare means many women drop out of the workforce altogether, said Reshma Saujani, Founder and CEO of Moms First, in a session on the ‘Workforce Behind the Workforce’.

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“We are the only industrialized nation in the world that doesn't have paid leave. The vast majority of American women go back to work two weeks after having a baby and 40% of families in America are in debt because of childcare.

“We pay more for childcare than we pay for our rent. And this isn't just a phenomenon that's happening in America. It's happening across the globe.”

The COVID-19 pandemic showed economies “simply cannot function without a thriving structure of care because workers can't work without care”, she added.

“There are 606 million women of working age in the world who are not working because of their unpaid care responsibilities, compared to 40 million men.

“At Moms First, we're working with over 130 companies in every sector, who are saying, ‘I don't have enough workers’. We are working with them to redesign their childcare packages and increase their subsidies.

“Childcare pays for itself. When you offer childcare to employees, you get higher worker productivity and lower rates of attrition, and greater rates of retention. We have to stop looking at care as a personal problem that a parent or a mother has to solve, but as an economic issue that world leaders must actually do something about.”

On disability inclusion

Disability is no longer a “nice to have”, it’s an economic issue, Caroline Casey, Founder of the Valuable 500, which works with companies to end disability exclusion, told the World Economic Forum.

People with disabilities and their families currently represent 54% of our global economy, which represents a market worth $13 trillion.

“This is an economic opportunity for business. But the flip side of exclusion is it costs. Because if you don't have people contributing, it's costing our systems and our societies. And we need every single person to contribute.

“Why would we put barriers in place for people to reach their potential and to contribute and leave a $13 trillion market on the table? And how can you serve that market? You need the disabled talent in your business, in your C-suite and in your boards.”

Getting companies to take collective action and be accountable would be a game-changer Casey said, but it’s also time to start looking at intersectionality on inclusion:

“How do we join these dots? If you have a programme that you are proud of working on gender, my question is, where is the disabled woman?

“It's looking at an intersectional, an integrated approach to what we do in an accountable way. We can't have a pick-and-mix approach to the issues of inclusion and exclusion in the world.”

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On LGBTQ+ inclusion

“Companies and economies are definitely in a worse financial situation when they're not inclusive,” Sarah Kate Ellis, President and CEO of US LGBTQ+ advocacy organization GLAAD, told the Forum.

“The white papers have been written a million times. The math has been done a million times. More than 40% of Gen Zers identify as LGBTQ+. That's the future workforce and consumer, so companies have to be inclusive.

“We're going to see the younger generation moving through the ranks of these companies and organizations, and moving into positions of power over time,” she said, adding that mentoring young talent was crucial to giving them a seat at the table.

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Related topics:
Diversity and InclusionDavos AgendaEconomic Progress
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