Social Impact & Advocacy

Equity at Davos: Reflections of a DEI Strategist at the Summit of the Corporate World

Thaly Germain

January 27th, 2023

Last week, I was invited to the World Economic Forum in Davos to speak on a panel about how to navigate the world’s most pressing issues—from climate change to technology, from racial and gender equity to poverty. As a DEI and culture strategist, I came away from the week of impassioned conversation—with some of the world’s most influential political, social and business leaders—convinced that the time is ripe for large-scale action. People are ready for change. 

Here are some reflections about what it will take for change to take hold—and what opportunities Davos presents for us to move forward.

Cross-sector Collaboration: Achieving Change Will Take All of Us

Increasing diversity, equity, and inclusion in workplaces and throughout the halls of power requires a focus and commitment from all corners of the globe andall sectors of society. Just like with climate change—no single, technical solution will solve the crisis on its own. Cross-sector collaboration is essential to ensure we have adequate representation in the emerging fields shaping our world. For example, although the tech field is advancing rapidly, we still struggle to effectively integrate racial and gender equity into this evolving sector. Despite the many incredible advances in artificial intelligence, the metaverse, and tools like ChatGPT, their ultimate success depends on being truly representative of the diversity of the world’s population, including during volatile economic times. To make equity central to emerging fields, we have to be deliberate and thoughtful about ensuring inclusion and equity expertise in design processes. Diverse, inclusive and equitable teams are integral to creating representative tools as we imagine the successful future of tech. 

As the saying goes, it takes a village to achieve the impact the world needs, and at Davos I was fortunate to share space on a panel with leaders working in media, business consulting, maternal health, tech and DEI. A shout-out to those I met with who are working towards gender and racial equity: Sally Buzbee, Executive Editor at The Washington Post; Katy George, Chief People Officer at McKinsey & Company; Anna Frellsen, CEO at Maternity Foundation; and Sandy Carter, SVP at Unstoppable Domains. Sharing ideas, experiences and inspiration across sectors propels us all into joint action.

Setting Aside Differences To Coalesce Around Common Goals

Advancing racial and gender equity can be challenging and sometimes divisive, not so much in terms of what our end goals are—but in how we achieve them. Aligning on approaches, strategies and tactics can be complicated when people from across sectors come together. Not only are they used to doing things in different ways, they often use different language around similar issues. The community at Davos represented a unique opportunity and model for how to set aside differences and coalesce around common goals. What better place to find leaders across sectors focusing together on the world’s most pressing issues. While we all came from various backgrounds and sectors, we shared so much in common—above all, a desire to move things forward for the good of the collective.

An added benefit of being in community with so many visionary leaders is that by virtue of sharing space, we benefited from each other’s wisdom and insights. Taking the time to listen more than we talk, to be inspired by others, is so important when doing complex and heavy work. This is a practice we can all carry with us on the path to greater diversity, equity and inclusion.

Balancing Heavy With Light

While in Davos, I was asked to share one thing I’d done that was fun. I reflected that I always build in fun, and light, with the serious and heavy. Finding balance is a key component of achieving success, especially when working to solve serious, complex issues like racial or gender inequity. Davos provided the opportunity to experience a mix of learning, teaching, social gatherings and serious discussions about really complex topics. Balancing heavy with light is essential to the ethos of the work we do.

Now that we’ve all had the incredible opportunity to learn from each other and teach one another, to find inspiration in community and to coalesce around shared goals, we have to move beyond talk to action. What will you do with your passion today, tomorrow and the day after—to truly create the change you want to see?