This is the first panel discussion I've seen with a woman on it" said the feisty lady in purple to my right. And I've been to loads." I'm sitting in a seminar called 'How to close the gender gap' at the World Economic Forum in Davos and the room is packed with women, many of them tweeting on their iPads. Every time the panel is open to questions from the floor, hands shoot up across the room. Before long, we run out of time.
It's my first time in Davos, and I'm slowly adjusting to the climate, the ferocious networking, the close proximity of people you normally only see on TV (it's not every day you come across Bill Clinton by the cloakroom queue) and to trying to walk on impacted ice without skidding spectacularly. To be honest, none of it feels natural, but it's great to be part of it.
This year they put a quota in place to ensure more female delegates attend. One thing I'm struck by though is that the corridors and audiences are full of well-heeled, purposeful looking women. But on stage, with a few notable exceptions, they're curiously absent. And everywhere I go, people mostly women seem to be commenting on it. At the Infosys lunch, the social entrepreneur and the IT whiz mentioned it. Over coffee, the Microsoft executive and open democracy campaigner mentioned it. It's a topic you come across again and again on the shuttle bus, in the corridors, in the early hours of the morning at the bar.
So much of the talks, seminars and debates at Davos are dedicated to looking forwards, to discussing what's shifting in the world and how we can step up to change things for the better. On the one hand, it's uplifting to think about the power and potential of all those things. On the other, it's a bit dispiriting that the participants don't come from more walks of life. Still, I'm reliably informed that it's much better this year than years gone by. So here's to 2011 being an improved vintage, and to 2012 being even better