Davos 2018 is about empowering women. But Trump may have other plans.

London: "I think he's going to be a distraction."

Sharan Burrow, former ACTU president in Australia, now general secretary of the International Trade Union Confederation in Brussels, is not looking forward to US President Donald Trump's expected presence at the World Economic Forum in Davos, Switzerland this week.

In a deliberate act of symbolism, all seven of the co-chairs of the 2018 gathering of billionaires, world leaders and influencers are women.

Burrow is one of them.

It's intended as a "statement to the world that by any indicator women are not making progress," she says. "Progress for women has stagnated."

Burrow says Davos this year is finding a common cause with the #MeToo movement, which has "unleashed a wave" exposing misogyny.

"It's not new, but it is shocking the world," she said. "#MeToo shows this bias is systemic, that people get away with violence against women, get away with discrimination whether in work or society in general - because for too long silence has been the answer."

This year the WEF is themed "creating a shared future in a fractured world".

It includes three events on stopping sexual harassment. Silicon Valley executive Sheryl Sandberg will discuss how technology can promote equality. Malala Yousafzai will give a talk, and a group of Saudi officials, including the ministers of commerce and economy, will be grilled on the nation's plans on women's rights.

But its biggest-profile guest is not likely to engage with the theme - and is not renowned for empowering women.

Trump is expected instead to promote an "America First" economic message, with White House officials telling US media he will tout the booming US economy and his recent tax overhaul, and criticise "unfair" trade practices.

"He won't be championing values, the set of democratic rights and freedoms to share in prosperity that at least one hopes Merkel and Macron will reinforce," Burrow says - referring to the French and German leaders who are also on the invitation list.

Emmanuel Macron and Angela Merkel are tipped to take the lead in spruiking an alternative to the Trump path.

Macron in particular is expected to make waves, continuing his bid to lead the free world, at least rhetorically, in a keynote speech on Wednesday.

Advisors tip that though he won't be targeting Trump specifically, it won't be too hard to "read between the lines" of his diagnosis of globalisation and environmental concerns.

Last year Chinese President Xi Jinping was the talk of Davos, after he delivered a message that China was the new champion of free trade, globalisation and the Paris climate agreement - and made some unsubtle digs at Trump.

Though they are all women, there is a wide spread of perspective and politics among the Davos chairs.

They include Christine Lagarde, managing director of the IMF, Erna Soldberg, the conservative and tough-on-refugees prime minister of Norway, and Fabiola Gianotti, a particle physicist and director-general of the prestigious CERN research institute.

The 60 world leaders expected to attend include Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi, Britain's Theresa May, Canada's Justin Trudeau and Israel's Benjamin Netanyahu - and a number of African leaders who may wonder if their country is thought of by Trump as a "shithole".

Rob Cox, global editor of Reuters Breakingviews, wrote this week he expected a big topic of interest to be "the extraordinary reforms taking place in India", with Modi's keynote address "must-see Davos programming for every CEO, banker or policymaker on the ground".

Cate Blanchett was also attending, co-presenting a cultural award with Elton John. The organisers say 21 per cent of this year's attendees are women: a record.

Burrow has been to Davos before - "it's elitist, there's no doubt about it??? but that's also an opportunity to have the leaders of labour unions and civil society take the voice of people to the world".

Despite Davos' reputation as an event where billionaires discuss inequality over canapes, Burrow sees it as a good opportunity to change minds, or at least influence them.

"My target will be those CEOs who are prepared to stand up and join with labour leaders and civil society leaders to renegotiate a new social contract," she says.

Burrow says she was in Ethiopia last week where women are paid just $US20 ($25) a month to work for some of the world's biggest brands.

It's a scandal, she says, and engaging company chiefs both formally and at the social events at Davos can lead to "real collaboration and real progress".

"Business has to ask itself do they want to put us further down an unsustainable path."

This story Davos 2018 is about empowering women. But Trump may have other plans. first appeared on The Sydney Morning Herald.