By Kevin Belanger,
International Business Writer
Each year, the rich, famous, and powerful converge on Davos-Kloster, Switzerland to take part in the World Economic Forum. This year, the meeting was held from Jan. 20 to Jan. 23. 2500 individuals from 99 different countries were in attendance, including American executives such as Satya Nadella of Microsoft and Mary Barra of General Motors. According to the World Economic Forum, 900 of the attendees were from academia, government, or science. The next largest group was 400 hundred executives from the finance and asset management industry.
Despite being a brief four day conference, topics ranging from automation replacing jobs, to China’s slowdown, to Britain’s potential exit from the European Union were covered. A major topic discussed was ways to increase growth in the European Union, which has struggled with very low inflation and weak growth. This discussion panel consisted of both national European central bankers and executives from European banks. The panel expressed worry that quantitative easing may be ineffective if central banks continued to use it to try to spur growth. More specifically, Benoit Couere of the European Central Bank warned that quantitative easing, while effective during the crisis, may suffer from diminishing returns as it is used more and more. The members of the forum also discussed the possibility of new banking regulations in the European Union to create more stability in the banking industry. However, Axel Weber, of UBS, warned that new regulations would simply make it more difficult for major banks to undertake business in the European Union.
Gender equality was also a major theme of the conference. According to The Guardian, the Canadian Prime Minister encouraged all delegates present to be unafraid to identify themselves as feminists, declaring that embracing feminism would improve decision making worldwide. Additionally, Zhang Xin, the founder of SOHO, a property company, stated her support for hiring quotas in boardrooms which would require more women to be represented. However, Cheryl Sandberg of Facebook disagreed, pointing out that Norway does not have more women in executive leadership positions since beginning boardroom quotas. According to Quartz, several executives representing companies such as Unilever, McKinsey, and Twitter also announced that they would ensure that their companies had a more diverse workforce. Dennis Nally of Price Waterhouse Coopers stated that diverse groups make better decisions.
Another key discussion point was the so-called Brexit, the potential departure of the United Kingdom from the European Union. According to Business Day Live, English citizens have been increasingly skeptical of remaining in the European Union. However, at the conference, U.K. Prime Minister David Cameron stated that he hoped the U.K would remain a part of the European Union and encouraged business leaders to communicate to the public the benefits of remaining in the European Union.
A version of this article appeared in the Tuesday, January 26th print edition.
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