Forty five years ago, a Swiss academic named Klaus Schwab invited some of Europe’s business leaders to a ski resort to give them the opportunity to talk between themselves away from the boardrooms of their head offices. In doing so, he created the European Management forum. That was 1977. Much has changed since then. The name for a start. It is now known as the World Economic Forum, but its more famous name is where it gets held: Davos.
Business leaders, politicians and eminent academics get together to meet, introduce themselves and talk about their countries and the world’s issues. From the outside it may look like some kind of Machiavellian collective of Bond baddies, but the attendees are the ones that we buy our food from, save our money with and pay taxes to. While a great amount of the deals will be made behind closed doors, decisions made there will touch every aspect of your life, even if you do not know it.
This year’s official theme was “Mastering the Fourth Industrial Revolution”. To you and me that means the use of robots and technology instead of humans. Even a World Economic Forum report suggests that in the next five years, leading economies across the world will lose up to seven million jobs as technology evolves and expands its usage. Yes, read that again, seven million in five years. You know who is going to be hit the hardest? Women. Unfortunately, it is just a fact that when unemployment percentages will be quite steady between men and women, the low take up of women in STEM (Science, Technology, Engineering and Mathematics) studies and then occupations, the new jobs created by the fourth industrial revolution will pass them by. For every job taken by a women in a STEM industry, 20 will be lost in other industries.
As an individual, there is nothing much you can do about this, however there is one clear statistic. There are not enough women in STEM industries, and they need them. Desperately. Women, if you think that you are too old to retrain or re-qualify, that is your choice, but what is not your choice is what your daughter studies.
University fees are only going to get larger and student loans will become even more crippling to the point that studying becomes a privilege rather than an option. The days of being able to study what you are interested in rather than for a career are over. It is politicians’, industrys’, parents’ and schools’ responsibility to make sure that women go into science and maths in greater numbers.
Release your inner geek and reinforce the positive role models in these areas. It will cost you a lot less in the future, and you never know, the money you save by not having to support your daughter longer than you should may go towards the flight tickets to watch your daughter collect her Nobel Prize for Physics.
Paul McLardie is a partner at Total Wealth Management. Contact him at