Ultimately people were the subject of this year’s meeting at Davos. The title of the meeting was “The Fourth Industrial Revolution” but every discussion was principally about the consequences of this new era for the human population of our planet.
The organizer of Davos, the World Economic Forum, is committed to improving the state of the world. Its ethos is one of inclusion:
“We believe that progress happens by bringing together people from all walks of life who have the drive and the influence to make positive change.”
Everywhere in Davos this ethos was clearly in evidence. Amid all the talk about the accelerating pace of technological change, conversations always returned to the issue of its ultimate impact on people. Whether the discussion was about robots taking over our jobs, or about reducing the global carbon footprint, or dealing with the great flows of people across the continents as refugees flee global conflict zones, the ultimate focus of discussion was the impact on the individual.
It was clear to me that global commerce can be a powerful driving force for the promotion of diversity and inclusion in society. Governments may set rules, but companies can encourage behaviors by their actions as employers and as members of society.
Any business that aspires to growth needs to ensure its workforce is fully representative of the fantastic diversity of human experience. If it wants to be a global business, if it wants to maximize its customer base, the team need to look and think like their customers. They need to anticipate and share their thoughts, their concerns, their experiences. Certainly it is something we are keenly aware of at Thomson Reuters, where I sit on our internal Inclusion Taskforce. Put simply, we perform better as a business when we employ the widest range of people.
Of course the issue at Davos remains that women are dramatically under-represented. Only 18 percent of delegates this year were women. This fact in itself drove many discussions about how to get more women in leadership roles. My colleague Debra Walton wrote a great blog post on this issue, and the Thomson Reuters Foundation held a breakfast session which showed clearly how much potential is being wasted while women are being held back in the workplace.
Some progress is being made, albeit slowly, and the pace of technological change demands we do it much more quickly. Next year’s delegates at Davos need to recognize that success needs to come soon. We cannot let the robots be the children of this revolution.