2017 headlines prove that people talk the talk, but are not always walking the walk. Unfortunately, data, facts and talk are not moving the needle — in fact the economic gender gap has widened to 217 years according to the World Economic Forum’s 2017 Gender Gap Report. Leaders and organizations must ask themselves, "Are we making progress or noise?"


The time for action is now.


Disruption caused by technological advancements and a multi-faceted workforce is reshaping businesses and societies.  Responses motivated by innovation and optimism define what it means to lead and to thrive during such unprecedented times.   Seeking opportunity when women thrive, a movement has been unleashed — a global movement — yet progress has slowed, the gap has widened and the current state contradictions are rampant.  From women earning the right to drive in Saudi Arabia to the exposed abuse of power in the entertainment and media industry, from sustained focus on increasing female workforce participation to the estimated 5 million jobs in threat of automation, change or elimination being  primarily held by women.  


Now more than ever we need organizations and leaders to act — to turn from opportunity into action.  Our fourth annual When Women Thrive briefing will explore current-state contradictions and create a future-focused agenda that will drive the change needed for more women, businesses and societies to thrive.


23 JANUARY at 07:00-08:30 CET in DAVOS


Watch a replay of our live streaming below.



Speaker Line Up


  • President

    Julio Portalatin

    President and CEO, Mercer 


    Julio A. Portalatin is President and Chief Executive Officer of Mercer, a leading global consulting firm that delivers advice and technology-driven solutions that help organizations meet the health, wealth and career needs of a changing workforce. Mr. Portalatin leads more than 22,000 employees who support clients in over 140 countries.

    Under his leadership Mercer has demonstrated growth through expansion into emerging markets, transformative acquisitions including Thomson’s Online, growing assets under delegated management to over $220 billion, leading the health and benefits industry in creating regionally powerful marketplace solutions and powering a unique people + digital set of solutions focused on preparing companies for the workforce of the future. Vault.com has ranked Mercer the #1 HR consultancy every year under Julio’s leadership. Forbes Magazine designated Mercer as one of the Top Consulting firms in the US.

    As a thought leader and speaker on the changing workforce Mr. Portalatin has been a leading contributor to the dialogue on the future of work, human capital, global economic trends, healthcare, financial wellness, pension systems, and diversity. He is a steward of the World Economic Forum (WEF) and has shared insights in international media including The Economist, CBS, CNBC, and CEO Magazine, and has written OpEds in The Wall Street Journal and Fortune Magazine. 

    Before joining Mercer in 2012, Mr. Portalatin spent 20 years at AIG, where he held many senior positions. Since 2017, Mr. Portalatin has been on the Board of DXC Technologies, a leading global technology company. He actively supports several nonprofit organizations and currently sits on the Board of Covenant House International, which works with homeless youth. 

    Mr. Portalatin received a Bachelor of Science in business management and honorary doctorate from Hofstra University and is a member of its Board of Trustees.



  • Pat Milligan

    Pat Milligan

    Senior Partner and Global Leader of When Women Thrive and Multinational Client Group, Mercer




    Pat Milligan is a Senior Partner and Global Leader, Multinational Client Group. Previously, she served as President of Mercer's North America region from 2012 until 2015. Prior to that, she was the President of Mercer’s Talent business segment and led the human capital, information solutions, and workforce communication and change businesses. From 2005 through 2008, Pat was the Chief Markets Officer where she successfully led a number of Mercer’s key initiatives, including the implementation of the global client relationship management system, the sales effectiveness program and the repositioning of Mercer’s brand.
    Prior to joining Mercer in 2005, Pat led the worldwide markets business at Mellon Human Resources Services. She also spent two years in Mellon's HR Outsourcing and has first hand experience in integrating consulting and outsourcing capabilities. Pat also held various business leadership roles at Towers Perrin, where she led the Human Resource Effectiveness business and built and led the Change Management, Communication & Measurement, and People Strategy businesses. In addition, she was the Managing Director of strategic planning, and sales and marketing. Pat was a member of Towers Perrin's Board of Directors.
    For most of her 25-year career, she has collaborated with and been involved in innovative and pioneering work in the area of human capital strategy, HR function strategy, talent management and rewards strategy. In 2011, Pat was the Project Advisor for The World Economic Forum’s Practicing Talent Mobility for Economic Growth project. The successful outcome of the World Economic Forum-Mercer collaboration enables a global community of leaders to connect, educate and share information to drive a shared agenda, which will enhance global workforce mobility to stimulate economic growth. She is currently leading the second phase of the research project.
    Pat currently serves on the World Economic Forum Global Agenda Council. In May 2012, she was selected by Consulting Magazine − which is published by the Kennedy Institute − as one of the nation’s top 25 consultants, recognized for her excellence in leadership.
    Pat is a graduate of Georgetown University's School of Foreign Service and the Kellogg Graduate School of Management at Northwestern University.


    Twitter | LinkedIn


  • Sheila Lirio Marcelo

    Sheila Lirio Marcelo

    Founder, Chairwoman and CEO, Care.com


    Sheila founded Care.com in 2006 after her personal challenges as a young working mother finding care for two small children and ailing parents shed a spotlight on the massive care needs of families everywhere.  Today, the company is the world’s largest online destination for finding and managing family care, serving more than 26 million people across 20 countries. 



    Committed to building a company that can be both profitable and mission-based, Sheila continues to drive innovation across Care.com’s platforms and services to enable families to find care and caregivers to find meaningful work, while also leveraging the company’s data and reach to drive systemic change across the care economy as a whole.


    Prior to founding Care.com, Sheila was an Entrepreneur in Residence at Matrix Partners and held executive positions at Upromise, helping families save for college and at executive search engine TheLadders.com.  She is a member of the Board of Trustees of Boston Children’s Hospital, sits on the Library of Congress Trust Fund Board, and is a member of the Massachusetts Competitive Partnership.  Sheila graduated from Mount Holyoke College and received her J.D. and M.B.A. degrees from Harvard University.




  • Ricardo Villela Marino

    Ricardo Villela Marino

    CEO, Itaú Latam and Partner, Itaú Unibanco


    Ricardo is currently partner of Itaú Unibanco and CEO for Itaú Latam operations (Argentina, Chile, Paraguay and Uruguay).  He was also former President of FELABAN and Young Global Leader (World Economic Forum). 

    He is an engineer from University of São Paulo, with an MBA at MIT Sloan School of Management and a thesis on Managing The Family Business from Harvard Business School, USA. 


    Ricardo began his career in Banco Credit Comerciale of France (CCF). Afterwards, he was hired by Banco de Investimentos Garantia (CSFB), where he worked with fixed income and equity markets.  


    He also had an international career experience with Goldman Sachs Asset Management (New York and London), where he was a portfolio manager for Emerging Markets (EMEA, Asia ex-Japan and Latina America).  


    Before assuming the current challenge at Banco Itaú, Ricardo was responsible for creating the Business Intelligence division of Itaucard, for running the Derivatives Desk, for managing Itaú´s US$ 5 bi middle-market credit portfolio and also for its domestic Mortgage business. 


    Ricardo is also president of Instituto PDR and member of the following boards: Banco Itaú Unibanco Holding Financeira, MIT Sloan School of Management Latin America and VISA Latam Advisory Board.


  • Cindy Robbins

    Cindy Robbins

    President and Chief People Officer, Salesforce


    Cindy Robbins is President and Chief People Officer at Salesforce — one of the World’s Most Innovative Companies according to Forbes and one of Fortune’s 100 Best Companies to Work For nine years in a row. In this role, Robbins leads the company’s efforts to attract, develop and retain the best talent.


    Robbins has more than 15 years of experience in the field of Human Resources. At Salesforce, Robbins’ previous leadership roles within Employee Success include overseeing recruiting and global business partners. Prior to joining Salesforce in 2006, she held positions at major technology companies including BEA, OpenWave, Plumtree Software and Excite@Home.


    Robbins holds a B.S. in Political Science from Santa Clara University.


  • Joanne Lipman

    Joanne Lipman

    Author, "THAT’S WHAT SHE SAID: What Men Need to Know (and Women Need to Tell Them) About Working Together"


    Joanne Lipman is author of the upcoming book about closing the gender gap, THAT’S WHAT SHE SAID: What Men Need to Know (and Women Need to Tell Them) About Working Together, out on January 30, 2018 from William Morrow. She until recently was Chief Content Officer of Gannett and Editor-in-Chief of USA TODAY and the USA TODAY NETWORK, comprising the flagship publication plus 109 local newspapers including the Detroit Free Press, the Des Moines Register, and the Arizona Republic.


    Lipman began her career as a reporter for The Wall Street Journal, ultimately rising to deputy managing editor – the first woman to attain that post – and supervising coverage that won three Pulitzer Prizes. At the Journal, she created Weekend Journal and Personal Journal and oversaw creation of the Saturday edition. She subsequently was founding editor-in-chief of Conde Nast Portfolio magazine, which won Loeb and National Magazine Awards.


    Lipman is a frequent public speaker and has appeared as a television commentator on ABC, NBC, CNN, CNBC, MSNBC, and PBS.  Her work has been published in outlets including The New York Times, Time, Newsweek and the Harvard Business Review. She is co-author, with Melanie Kupchynsky, of the acclaimed music memoir “Strings Attached.”


    A winner of the Matrix Award for women in communications, Lipman is also a member of the Yale University Council, the Council on Foreign Relations, and the boards of the Knights Orchestra, the World Editors Forum, and the advisory boards of Breastcancer.org and the Yale School of Music. She and her husband live in New York City and are the parents of two children.




  • Robert F. Smith

    Robert F. Smith

    Founder, Chairman and CEO of Vista Equity Partners.


    Robert F. Smith is the Founder, Chairman and CEO of Vista Equity Partners. Vista currently manages equity capital commitments of over $30Bn and oversees a portfolio of over 50 software companies that employ over 45,000 people worldwide.  In 2017, Smith was named by Forbes as one of the 100 Greatest Living Business Minds. For the second time in a row, in 2016, Vista was named as the world’s #1 performing private equity firm, according to the HEC‐Dow Jones annual ranking. Previously, Smith worked for Goldman Sachs in Tech M&A and Kraft General Foods, where he earned four patents. In May, Smith signed on to the Giving Pledge, the only African American to do so. He serves as the Chairman of Carnegie Hall, founding director and President of the Fund II Foundation, Chairman of the Robert F. Kennedy Human Rights, Smith earned his B.S. in Chemical Engineering from Cornell University and his MBA with honors from Columbia Business School.


  • Leena Nair

    Leena Nair

    CHRO, Unilever


    Leena is the first female, first Asian, youngest ever CHRO of Unilever and member of the Unilever Leadership Executive (ULE), which is responsible for delivering Unilever’s business & financial performance.


    Leena bears overall responsibility for the human capital of Unilever, which operates across multiple regulatory and labour environments spread over 190 countries. She ensures the company has the right people, in the right roles, with the right capabilities and mindset to deliver high business performance that enables Unilever to meet its ambitious business growth with environmental and positive social impact. She also heads the Diversity and Inclusion agenda for the organisation ensuring that its workforce is truly diverse and inclusive.


    In 2007, Leena became the first woman in the Management Committee of Hindustan Unilever in 90 years heading HR. She was also appointed the first woman on Unilever South Asia Leadership Team a year later, team responsible for Unilever's growth in each of the following markets: India, Pakistan, Bangladesh, Sri Lanka and Nepal, currently around Euros 6 billion.


    She was Senior Vice President – Leadership & Organisation Development and Global Head of Diversity in 2013, before being appointed as CHRO in March 2016.


    Key External Positions


    • Steering Committee member of The Future of Education, Gender and Work, World Economic Forum (2017) 
    • Member Women’s Network Forum hosted by Countess of Wessex, FTSE Mentoring Programme (2017) 
    • Member of networks including Winmark, CHRO Roundtable, HR50, Financial Times 125, Spencer Stuart Directors’ Forum (2014 – present) 
    • Chairman of Unilever Industries Pvt Ltd, a wholly owned subsidiary of Unilever Plc. (2010-2014) 
    • Chairman of Hindustan Field services limited, Director of Unilever Nepal (2010-2013) 
    • Chairman of Maharashtra Council Confederation of Indian Industries (CII) (2012) 
    • Member of the Young Presidents Organization (YPO) – Mumbai & London Chapter


    Awards and Recognitions


    • Recognised by Queen Elizabeth II of Great Britain as one of the accomplished Indian Business Leaders in the UK (2017) 
    • Top 20 List of BAME (Black, Asian, and Minority Ethnic) leaders by the Financial Times (2017 & 2016) 
    • Top 30 list of FT HERoes Champions of Women in Business by the Financial Times (2017) 
    • Making Waves in HR Award by HR Magazine (2017) 
    • Part of Female FTSE Board Report 2017 - 100 Women to Watch 
    • Part of BAME 100 Board Talent Index 2017 and GG2 Power List 2017 
    • Business Today list of 25 most powerful women in business for 7 consecutive years 
    • UK First Women Award in the category of Retail & Consumer (2015) 
    • Ranked among the 50 most influential women in India by Verve Magazine 
    • "Seasoned HR Professional" by NHRDN (2010) 
    • Conferred "HR Champion” by Hindustan Times and 'HR Leader of the Year ' by STAR News Talent Leadership


    Personal Interests – A proud wife to Kumar, who runs his own financial services business in Mumbai, and mother of two teenage sons. Her passions are cooking, running, cycling, attending the theatre and Bollywood dancing. Ever mindful of her childhood in India, where she cycled to school to get an education, she is grateful for every one of life’s opportunities.


    Twitter | LinkedIn 


  • Adaire Fox-Martin

    Adaire Fox-Martin

    Executive Board of SAP SE, Global Customer Operations


    Adaire Fox-Martin is a member of the Executive Board of SAP SE, Global Customer Operations. She leads SAP’s business in EMEA, MEE and Greater China with a resolute focus on customer success, working closely with development and support leaders while overseeing SAP’s industry go-to-market efforts and field execution. Fox-Martin’s organization is passionate about customers’ ongoing digital transformation to realize greater business value through the use of technology. She maintains an unwavering commitment to the company’s vision of helping the world run better and improving people’s lives.


    A winner of the SAP Asia Pacific Japan (APJ) Distinguished Leader Award, Fox-Martin embodies SAP’s leadership principles: ensuring customer success, driving simplicity, and developing amazing talent. Under her direction, in 2016 the company launched One Billion Lives (1BLives), an initiative to leverage the power of SAP technology to improve the lives of one billion people in APJ. Employee-conceived projects that are selected for the program receive seed money, executive support and a startup accelerator with industry experts. A champion of gender parity in the workplace, she also spearheaded Back-to-Work, an SAP APJ initiative that helps professional women re-enter the workforce after a career break.


    Fox-Martin was most recently president of SAP’s business in APJ, excluding Greater China, where she ran the company’s multi-functional sales and operations organizations. Her inspirational, authentic and empathetic leadership style served as the foundation for the company’s success across the region and put SAP on the list of the Top 10 Best Multinational Workplaces in Asia for two years in a row. She worked closely with all APJ market units to build a strong pipeline and solid sales execution, and to reignite a spirit of teamwork across the region where SAP was ranked #6 by the Great Place to Work Institute in April 2017.


    Prior to that, Fox-Martin was chief operating officer of SAP APJ. Before this role, she was senior vice president for Industry Business Solutions, where she was responsible for defining SAP’s strategy for long-term industry investment and the industry go-to-market for APJ. She joined the company in 2008 from Oracle Corp. as the head of Public Sector for APJ. In total her career in the IT sector spans more than a quarter century, including leadership positions across APJ and Europe in sales, business development, consulting, and education.


    A graduate of Ireland’s prestigious Trinity College, Fox-Martin is a respected thought leader and a frequent speaker at seminars and conferences. She is regularly featured and quoted in publications across multiple geographies as a passionate advocate of workplace inclusivity and fulfillment.


When Women Thrive, Businesses Thrive