More Women Present at Annual Sun Valley Conference

This year, of the more than 300 people who attended Allen & Co.’s annual Sun Valley conference only 17 attendees were women.

The three decade old annual conference has in the past been dubbed by the media as a male-bonding session for some of the world’s most influential investors, chief executives and media moguls. Attendees have included Warren Buffett, Paul Allen, Rupert Murdoch, Michael Eisner, David Geffen, Edgar Bronfman Jr., and Bill Gates.

In 1998, the typically male dominated Sun Valley Conference in Idaho finally broke tradition by inviting more female executives than usual, as well as by adding a panel discussion led by and about women and business. Previously in 1997 only one woman, Jill Barad, President and CEO of Mattel Inc., had been invited to deliver a presentation.

That summer Herbert Allen added a panel titled, “Women and Business,” which included the Washington Post Chairwoman Katherine Graham, former Disney/ABC President Geraldine Laybourne, and fashion designer Diane Von Furstenberg. The progressive panel was moderated by Diane Sawyer, who attended as a guest and not as a member of the media. Also invited in 1998 was Pleasant T. Rowland creator of the American Girl brand that was later sold to Mattel in a deal engineered by Allen & Co.

In the 15 years that have passed since Allen & Co. opened its doors to more women attendees, 11 more women have been invited to take part in the Sun Valley mogul summer camp. This year’s conference, held in July, was attended by powerful women including Sheryl Sandberg, Melinda Gates, Diane von Furstenberg, and Warren Buffet’s daughter, Susie.

In addition to these powerful women, this year’s conference attendees included many of the world’s top tech moguls such as Facebook’s Mark Zuckerberg, Twitter’s Dick Costolo, eBay’s John Donohoe, and Yahoo director Max Levchin.

The number of women conference attendees is a reflection of the number of women executives in the real world. According to The Atlantic, women make up just over four percent of Fortune 500 and Fortune 1000 CEOs.