Our society is currently undergoing several big changes that pose challenges and opportunities for the future. The increasing digitalization and automation, the growing globalization, and improved financial durability offer many excellent opportunities for development. There is more research funding in the system than ever before. On the other hand, our society is vulnerable; we have challenges in relation to inequality, an environment put under severe stress, and more hostile tendencies than we have seen in a long time, despite the good times and economic growth. In our work at the European Commission Independent High Level Group on Maximizing the Impact of EU Research & Innovation Programmes,4 we try to understand and elaborate on these challenges to be able to propose a suitable strategy for future research funding from the European Commission.
We will work together to foster global economic growth, while harnessing the power of technological innovation, in particular digitalization, and its application for the benefit of all. We are resolved to build a society capable of seizing opportunities, and tackling economic, social and environmental challenges, presented today and in the future, including those of demographic change. This recovery is supported by the continuation of accommodative financial conditions and stimulus measures taking effect in some countries. However, growth remains low and risks remain tilted to the downside. Most importantly, trade and geopolitical tensions have intensified. We will continue to address these risks, and stand ready to take further action. Fiscal policy should be flexible and growth-friendly while rebuilding buffers where needed and ensuring debt as a share of GDP is on a sustainable path. Monetary policy will continue to support economic activity and ensure price stability, consistent with central banks' mandates. Central bank decisions need to remain well communicated.
In January 2010, Rosie the Riveter appeared in the mailbox of my home near Seattle, flexing her iconic bicep on the cover of the Economist. The cover story struck a triumphant tone, reporting, "At a time when the world is short of causes for celebration, here is a candidate: Within the next few months women will cross the 50% threshold and become the majority of the American workforce." To mark the occasion, the magazine revised Rosie's famous call to action from "We can do it!" As much as I appreciated Rosie's enthusiasm, her declaration of victory felt premature. Even though American women did reach that 50% threshold in 2010 (and currently comprise 49.8% of the nonfarm workforce), the same old inequalities have simply followed us to new places. Across all aspects of American life, it is most often men who set policy, allocate resources, lead companies, shape markets, and determine whose stories get told. Meanwhile, what gains have been made typically haven't extended to all women. The women historically the most marginalized in this country -- including women of color, poor women, and lesbian and trans women -- are still the most likely to be trapped in minimum-wage jobs, the least likely to hold managerial roles, and the most likely to face sexual harassment and gender-based violence. Melinda Gates has had three careers -- technologist, stay-at-home mother, and philanthropist -- but only the first two were part of the plan. Melinda grew up in a middle-class family in Dallas, Texas, with parents who scrimped and saved to be able to send all four of their children to college. During her senior year of high school, she took a campus tour of Duke University and, awed by its computer science department, decided it was for her. Five years later, she graduated with a BS in computer science and an MBA from Duke's Fuqua School. After graduation, Melinda accepted a job at a relatively small software company -- Microsoft -- where she spent almost a decade developing multimedia products before leaving to focus on her growing family.