Sara Sutton, the founder of 1 Million for Work Flexibility, had the opportunity to travel to Davos, Switzerland, in January for the annual meeting of the World Economic Forum (WEF)—a one-week meeting-of-the-minds with many of the world’s leaders in business, government, nonprofit/NGO, and even entertainment, all based around the mission of the WEF: “Improving the state of the world.” This year, there were several key themes in the area of work flexibility, and we’re thrilled it’s getting this sort of high-level attention and awareness. Let’s take a look at three of the key takeaways from WEF’s 2016 Annual Meeting.

The Future of Work and Jobs

In the Future of Jobs report released by the WEF, a widespread disruption of of business models and labor markets is predicted to happen in the next five years. Special focus was placed on the skills people will need to compete in the future of work, and to thrive during this period of disruption. Key data from the report is based on a survey of senior talent and strategy executives from 371 leading global employers, representing more than 13 million employees across nine industries in 15 major developed and emerging economies and regional economic areas.

Flexible work was listed as the #1 driver of change in the workforce, with 44 percent of those surveyed agreeing that flexible work is truly transforming the nature of work as we know it. And flexible work’s impact, the report concluded, is largely fueled by cloud technology and the mobile internet.

The WEF concluded with this as one of its recommendations for action:

“Leveraging flexible work arrangements and online talent platforms: Organizations are going to have to become significantly more agile in the way they think about managing people’s work and about the workforce as a whole.”

Watch this 3-minute video of Sara being interviewed by HubCulture about the changing landscape of work:

Gender Parity

One of the most memorable quotes to come out of Davos this year was from Sheryl Sandberg, COO of Facebook. Speaking about closing the gender gap, Sandberg remarked,

“Men still run the world—and I’m not sure it’s going that well. It means we’re not using the full talent of the population.”

That’s incredibly true—as we’ve heard remarked, if you were playing a sport and wanted to win, you wouldn’t bench half your players, so the fact that women, who represent half the world’s population, are still hired less, paid less, promoted less, and thrive in the workplace less than men is a problem. This disparity was incredibly clear at the WEF Annual meeting: Only 18 percent of participants at the WEF Annual meeting in 2016 were women.

So, what’s to be done to encourage gender parity at work, and in all aspects of our lives? Some key takeaways were summarized in a Quartz report from Davos:

  • Promote high-potential women earlier
  • Intervene early and often to make sure women are mentored and promoted
  • More effectively make the business case for employing more women

At 1MFWF, we’re also keenly aware that this isn’t an issue that can be solved only by focusing on women. Men need to have equal access to things like paid paternal leave and flexible work options.

The Digital Economy

In the programs surrounding the topic of the digital economy, the question was asked, “How can the emergence of digital platforms create a launch pad for innovation that benefits all?” As we’ve seen with the rise of telecommuting and flexible work, digital platforms have already had a significant impact on employment and work, in terms of when, where, and how people are working today. Digitally-based work brings people together from around the world, further solidifying the global economy.

In particular, here’s a video about how digital platforms support work and employment:

Overall, the view from Davos was clear: Work flexibility is at the forefront of so many issues facing the world today, and is, in fact, a viable solution to many of our shared dilemmas. At 1MFWF, we’ll continue to work to make flexible work a central issue. Please join us by adding your name to our growing list of supporters!

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