Harvard University President Drew G. Faust attended the World Economic Forum’s Annual Meeting in Davos, Switzerland, last week, sharing her thoughts on the future of higher education and women in economic leadership with high-profile leaders and thinkers from around the world.
During what Harvard’s Vice President for Public Affairs and Communications Christine M. Heenan called “three very tightly packed days,” Faust sat on two panels and met with University alumni.
Faust, who is the first woman to serve as president of Harvard, used her time during the discussion “Women in Economic Decision-Making” primarily to reflect on how she has come to perceive her role as the University’s first female leader.
“I don’t want to serve with an asterisk next to my name, as if I got a special identity or special category,” she said. “Instead, I wanted to be the president of Harvard who happened also to be a woman.”
Faust said that after being appointed University president, she received letters from women around the world inspired by her accomplishments. This attention, she said, led her to think about how to use her platform at Harvard to bolster the education of women worldwide.
When Faust travels, she said she makes a point to “always go to girls’ schools and meet with young women and talk to them about their aspirations.”
The “Women in Economic Decision-Making” panel also included other prominent women from around the world, including Christine M. O. Lagarde, the managing director of the International Monetary Fund, and Sheryl K. Sandberg ’91, the chief operating officer of Facebook. This was the second consecutive year that the WEF has held a plenary session focused on women.
The second panel in which Faust participated was a discussion on the future of higher education.
In one of several media interviews given by Faust in Davos, she told Indian broadcasting network New Delhi Television that education was an important topic for the conference because of its connection to economic success.
“I think education has enormous prominence in the minds of people here at Davos and in the minds of leaders around the world, because knowledge is the currency of the 21st century,” she said.
While abroad, Faust also co-hosted a reception for Harvard alumni with Harvard Kennedy School Dean David T. Ellwood ’75 and attended meetings with the Global University Leaders Forum, a network of the WEF that includes academic leaders from around the world.
Last week marked the fourth time that Faust has taken part in the conference, which she also attended in 2008, 2010, and 2012.
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