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What does the sharing economy mean for women?

16.11.2016

By Clara Gaymard, President, Women’s Forum for the Economy & Society

Digital disruption, driven by the technological revolution, has overturned traditional economic models and opened the way to unbridled expansion, beyond borders and preconceptions. Leaving us wonder: Is the sharing economy a sharing world? That is the starting point and the theme we have chosen for the 12th edition of the Women’s Forum Global Meeting, taking place 30 November - 2 December in Deauville.

The sharing economy has been heralded as a business mega-trend, with global revenues set to rise from USD 15 billion today to USD 335 billion by 2025. And it’s not in just the United States where “collaborative consumption” and “P2P exchanges through technology” have taken hold. In Europe, Brazil and even China, people are proving happy to hop into strangers’ cars, welcome them into their homes, join them for dinner, and rent them clothing, cars, boats, and power tools.

Fast-growing corporations are riding this wave of innovation, blowing past traditional companies and scoffing at old ways of doing business. Start-ups that didn’t exist five years ago, with their cramped offices and a few dozen employees, are watching their share prices go through the roof, outpacing that of companies with staffs numbering in the hundreds of thousands. But the real revolution lies in how these new-era businesses are realigning priorities for employees, suppliers and customers, and by extension, for communities and for the planet.

Old-style companies waited for big decisions to come from on high. More often than not those decisions were motivated by one short-term objective: to bump up the company’s share price, or perhaps to stop if from sliding downwards. The new-gen leaders, on the other hand, are more likely to play for their team, prioritise the welfare of colleagues, act on behalf of their communities, identify not only new markets for products but new ways to combat poverty, pollution, climate change…

Some of this may be wishful thinking, of course, but I have no doubt the digital era is presenting us with some fantastic opportunities for progress. So where do women stand in this new paradigm? For all the talk of diversity and gender parity, for all the legislation and voluntary quotas put in place, women are still under-represented at the highest levels in the public and private sectors. How can this slow progress be accelerated to open leadership positions to women? How can more women gain access to the boardroom and the C-suite?

Those are just a few of the questions we will be asking this year at the Women’s Forum Global Meeting in Deauville. We are not expecting to find a one-size-fits-all answer to the problem of persistent gender disparity. But we are very likely to come away with a better understanding of what the sharing economy is doing – and could be doing better – for women at every level of our economies and societies.

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Join us at the 12th annual Women’s Forum Global Meeting 30 November – 2 December in Deauville, France. Click here to register at Women's Forum Global Meeting