Equity, Diversity and Inclusion

International Women’s Day: 10 women to watch in 2024

Saadia Zahidi, Managing Director, World Economic Forum, Gretchen Whitmer, Governor of the State of Michigan, USA, Arancha Gonzalez Laya, Dean, Paris School of International Affairs (PSIA), Sciences Po, France, Sviatlana Tsikhanouskaya, Leader of the Democratic Forces of Belarus, Republic of Belarus and Masih Alinejad, Journalist and Activist, U.S. Agency for Global Media, USA speaking in the: Women’s Leadership: Towards Parity in Power session at the World Economic Forum Annual Meeting 2023 in Davos-Klosters, Switzerland, 19 January. Congress Centre - Congress Hall. Copyright: World Economic Forum / Benedikt von Loebell

International Women’s Day’s theme this year is 'Count Her In: Accelerating Gender Equality Through Economic Empowerment'. Image: World Economic Forum/Benedikt von Loebell

Meg Jones
Writer, Forum Agenda
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Gender Inequality

  • At the current rate of progress, it will take 131 years to reach full gender parity, according to the World Economic Forum’s Global Gender Gap Report 2023.
  • The theme of this year’s International Women’s Day, on 8 March, is 'Invest in Women: Accelerate Progress'.
  • Diversity in representation matters. Here are 10 incredible women to watch in 2024.

International Women’s Day (IWD) on 8 March not only celebrates women’s achievements, but is an annual reminder that more action is needed to achieve gender parity.

At the current rate of progress, it will take 131 years to reach full gender parity, according to the World Economic Forum’s Global Gender Gap Report 2023.

An infographic showing the gender gap by percentage. women's day
Recent years have been marked by major setbacks for gender parity globally. Image: The World Economic Forum’s Global Gender Gap report 2023
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What's the World Economic Forum doing about the gender gap?

Gender equality continues to be one of the greatest human rights challenges, despite evidence outlining how it will improve the economy, society and protect the future of the planet.

IWD’s theme this year is ‘Invest in Women: Accelerate Progress’.

Equality and representation matters. Not only is increased representation of women in politics intrinsically linked to legal equality and economic opportunity, but diversity in representation is a powerful symbol to women and girls across the globe.

From activists and politicians, to CEOs and entrepreneurs – here are some incredible women to watch in 2024:

Xiye Bastida

Xiye Bastida is a 21-year-old climate justice activist and part of the Otomi-Toltec Indigenous community in Mexico.

From co-founding the Re-Earth Initiative to organizing Fridays For Future alongside other youth activists, Bastida is using her platform to highlight the intersectionality of the climate crisis.

Xiye Bastida at Davos.
Bastida was the recipient of the 2018 UN Spirit Award. Image: World Economic Forum / Boris Bal

She spoke at the World Economic Forum’s 54th Annual Meeting in Davos in January about her hopes for her generation to be the last one dependent on fossil fuels.

Amani Abou-Zeid

Amani Abou-Zeid was re-elected as Commissioner for Infrastructure and Energy at the African Union Commission in 2021.

In her role at the multilateral body, she has advanced many programmes including the Single African Air Transport Market and the Broadband Commission for Africa – both focused on strengthening the connection of Africa in their own respective ways.

Dr. Amani Abou-Zeid, Commissioner for Infrastructure and Energy of the African Union Commission speaks during a session at the World Economic Forum
Dr Abou-Zeid has also held leadership roles at organizations such as the African Development Bank and UNDP. Image: REUTERS/Sumaya Hisham

Abou-Zeid spoke at Davos, in a session titled Global Risks: What's in the Mail?.

Wanjira Mathai

As Managing Director for Africa and Global Partnerships at the WRI, Wanjira Mathai uses her platform to address global issues such as deforestation and energy access.

Mathai currently serves on the Board of the World Agroforestry Centre (ICRAF) and as a Leadership Council member of the Clean Cooking Alliance – a global network making clean cooking accessible to 2.3 billion people around the world.

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As the daughter of Wangari Maathai – founder of the Green Belt Movement and the first African woman to win the Nobel Peace Prize – Wanjira Mathai carries on her mother's legacy of a commitment to a better world.

HRH Reema Bandar Al-Saud

Appointed in 2019, Her Royal Highness Princess Reema Bandar Al-Saud is the first woman in Saudi Arabia’s history to serve in the role of Ambassador to the United States.

Al-Saud is a strong advocate for women's empowerment and gender equality in Saudi Arabia.
Al-Saud is a strong advocate for women's empowerment and gender equality in Saudi Arabia. Image: REUTERS/Ahmed Yosri

Since 2017, she has served as a member of the World Bank’s advisory council for the Women Entrepreneurs Finance Initiative which aims to address the financing gap faced by female entrepreneurs in developing countries. She has also been a member of the Gender, Equality & Inclusion Commission at the International Olympic Committee since 2018, advocating for sport as a “powerful force for the advancement of women”.

HRH Reema Bandar Al-Saud spoke at Davos on peace, prosperity and safety in a session titled Saudi Arabia: The Course Ahead.

Reshma Saujani

As founder of Girls Who Code and Moms First, Reshma Saujani has dedicated her career to breaking down systemic barriers in the fight for gender equality.

Having taught coding to over 580,000 students, Girls Who Code is working to close the gender gap in tech.

In December 2023, Moms First launched PaidLeave.ai, an AI chatbot designed to help parents and caregivers in New York find out how much paid time-off they're entitled to.

Saujani is co-chair of the World Economic Forum’s Global Future Council on the Future of Care Economy.

Nadia Calviño

Former First Deputy Prime Minister of Spain, Nadia Calviño, now sits as President of the European Investment Bank – the first woman to lead the EIB.

In 2020, she spearheaded Spain's economic response to the pandemic with an unprecedented $217 billion package, as well as managing the European Union's pandemic relief package.

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In a session titled ‘Uniting Europe's Markets’, she spoke at Davos on the importance of mobilizing investment to tackle global challenges.

Narges Mohammadi

Narges Mohammadi was awarded the Nobel Peace Prize in 2023 in recognition of her “fight against the oppression of women in Iran and her fight to promote human rights and freedom for all”.

Ali and Kiana Rahmani, children of Narges Mohammadi.
Mohammadi’s children accepted the Nobel Peace Prize on her behalf. Image: Reuters/NTB/Fredrik Varfjell

She is currently serving multiple sentences in Tehran's Evin Prison – amounting to over 12 years imprisonment. She has since been sentenced to an additional 15 months of detention, believed to be a result of her human rights work inside the prison.

Her husband, journalist and activist Taghi Rahmani, called on world leaders at Davos to make women’s rights an “inseparable part of any agreements” they make with Iran.

Karien van Gennip

The Dutch Deputy Prime Minister and Minister of Social Affairs and Employment, Karien van Gennip, has used her career to champion equitable opportunities and inclusion.

Karien van Gennip at Davos
Karien van Gennip’s portfolio ranges from labour market policy to childcare and child benefit schemes. Image: World Economic Forum/Jakob Polacsek

Talking to the OECD, Gennip shared that “giving people equal opportunities is what really drives me. Equal opportunities for work, income and a healthy and sustainable career”.

She spoke in a panel session entitled The Workforce Behind the Workforce at Davos 2024.

Arancha González Laya

Arancha González Laya is the Dean of the Paris School of International Affairs at Sciences Po, and former Minister of Foreign Affairs of Spain, where she championed a feminist foreign policy.

Arancha González Laya at Davos.
Arancha González Laya was Spain’s Minister of Foreign Affairs, European Union and Cooperation, between 2020-2021. Image: World Economic Forum/Benedikt von Loebell

In her advocacy for women’s economic empowerment, González was one of the founders of SheTrades – an initiative designed to empower women through greater integration in global trade and investment.

“At the end of the day, what we want is a society that is more solid,” said González on the Agenda Dialogues podcast at Davos last year.

Tirana Hassan

From social worker to human rights practitioner, Tirana Hassan is now the Executive Director at Human Rights Watch.

Tirana Hassan at Davos.
Tirana Hassan specializes in human rights protection in conflict and crises. Image: World Economic Forum/Sikarin Fon Thanachaiary

From 2015-2020, she was Amnesty International’s director of crisis response, overseeing the development of innovative uses of technology to advance human rights investigations across the world.

Hassan was a panellist on the session ‘Where is Freedom of Expression Going?’ at Davos this year.

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