Facing up to reality, especially in these dark days of the year, can sometimes be exhausting.
So I like this new work by the Itinerant Museum of Art (ItiMa), a sort of pop-up show, which is called Gender Equality? Reverse Reality. Look carefully at the garish Andy Warhol-inspired portraits and it's easy to get the joke. There are four men to 18 women, which is the opposite of the actual gender split at Davos, the annual schmoozefest for the world's movers and shakers, which starts on Wednesday.
Despite introducing a quota which insists that the biggest companies send at least one woman for every four men, the percentage of women attending the World Economic Forum (WEF) at Davos has stuck at 17% for the past two years. Many of the companies subject to the quota simply send exactly four men, thus avoiding the need for a woman delegate.
With annual membership fees estimated at £100,000 on top of the enormous cost of travel and accommodation at the hard-to-reach Swiss village, many cite cost concerns of course, rather than the fact that they just don't have that many senior women.
Fernando Morales-de la Cruz, founder of ItiMa, points out that this puts the percentage lower that the 20% membership of Saudi Arabia's Consultative Council. I think this defeats the argument, though using an unelected council where the king makes the appointments to the 150-strong council but can take no notice of its suggestions. Give me the Angela Merkels and Christine Lagarde of the Davos 17% any day.
A better comparison is with the world's media, which also attends Davos in vast swathes but is not subject to the same quota. Given the lack of women at the top of business (2% of the FTSE 100), it would be easy to imagine that the media representatives are more keenly balanced. But they're not. In a way it shouldn't be surprising, not if we remember that the percentage of women heard on Radio 4's Today programme averages at about 18%.
Interestingly enough, both the BBC and WEF use the same argument to explain their case – with few women at the top of the world's biggest companies it's hard to improve the situation and get them heard. To be fair, the WEF has managed to do better than the BBC when it comes to panellists, with nearly a quarter women. Last year included a stellar cast of women from Facebook's Sheryl Sandberg but still white men dominated the biggest, most-important panels, especially those dealing with big topics such as finance, for example.
The only area where true equality is reached are among the "young global leaders" (the under 40s) or the Davos "global shapers" (under 30s) where the numbers approach 50/50.
Every time I write this reality check focusing on the numbers and the failure of women to get to the top in equal numbers, someone always asks: does it matter? Helen Clark, the former prime minister of New Zealand, was asked this on Radio 4's Woman's Hour on Monday. Of course it does, she answered. How else can we hope to deal with the whole world's problems and not just those of a handful of white men at the top. I can't beat that really.
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