In 1918, the Representation of the People Act gave the first British women the right to vote and stand for public office.
This Sunday, I will join thousands of women and girls on the streets of Belfast, Cardiff, Edinburgh, and London in Processions – a mass participation artwork to celebrate 100 years of votes for women, and to bring alive that which matters to women today.
Wearing green, white or violet – the colours of the suffrage movement – Processions will appear as a flowing river of colour through the city streets.
This living sculpture artwork is produced by Artichoke and commissioned by 14-18 NOW, the UK’s arts programme for the First World War centenary.
Art offers us a way to connect with and understand those who are different to us. It encourages us to embrace diversity, promotes empathy, and develops our emotional intelligence.
It reminds us of our common humanity and brings us together in mutual respect.
The UN Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) are a 17-point plan designed to end poverty, fight inequality, and tackle climate change.
They focus our attention on the most pressing global issues and illustrate the urgency and necessity of finding new ways of working.
It is in this sphere that the private sector can both contribute and benefit.
Goal 5 – gender equality – is a key focus for our firm and we seek to address the gender inequality which persists worldwide through our global Empowering Girls and Women Initiative.
For all the progress, women remain the single largest untapped economic driver in the global economy.
Significant studies have found that trends toward gender equality have slowed and even reversed in recent years. A recent report by the McKinsey Global Institute argues that by 2025, $12 trillion could be added to global GDP by advancing women’s equality.
If we can disrupt this trend, we can ignite the global economy through women.
The rule of law
As a global law firm, we are guided in all that we do by the rule of law. But at the heart of this is how we respect our fellow human beings.
Internally, we promote the advancement and retention of female talent – and we have made significant progress, increasing women in management positions from 28 per cent in 2012 to 34 per cent in 2018.
We have been advising the Patchwork Foundation, a charity which promotes the involvement of under-represented communities into British Political Society.
We have also been empowering girls through our community investment initiatives.
Never walk alone
We are not alone as a City firm in our desire to advance women’s equality.
Increasingly, companies recognise the importance of investing in women. L&G Investment Management has said it will vote against FTSE 350 chairs if their board is not made up by at least a quarter of women. Accenture is aiming for a gender balanced workforce by 2025.
Processions on Sunday will allow us to show our commitment to the cause by standing side by side with women from all across the country.
We invite you all to join us on the journey – both this weekend and into the future as we continue to strive for equality. As I sit here writing this in London City Airport and note the proportion of men travelling for business compared to women, I think we still have some way to go.