Debate and discussion about equal gender representation is all over the news and twitter (#reshuffle) today as UK Prime Minister, David Cameron, re-shuffles his cabinet in the lead up to the 2015 general election. This is a timely debate falling upon the anniversary of the birth of one the UK’s best known political activists and leader of the campaign for women’s suffrage, Emmeline Pankhurst.
The debate has also been sparked because after the 2010 UK election, female Tory MPs made up only 16% of the whole party and overall, the UK ranks a woeful 65th in the world in terms of female representation in parliament behind Kazakhstan, Lesotho and even Afghanistan.
In business circles, the ‘30% Club’ reported in 2010 that of FTSE-100 boards, women represented only 12.6%. This has since increased to 22.2% but still falls short of the desired 30% which is the point the organisation suggests that the voices of the minority group become heard in their own right, rather than simply representing the minority.
Concern rages about quotas and positive discrimination and the possibility of women being promoted simply for being female, rather than on the basis of talent. This can be seen clearly in the following recent tweet by Lord Ashcroft (largest private donor to the UK Tory party until Feb 2013): “The impending ministerial reshuffle will be determined by optics rather than ability….”
At Hanne & Co Solicitors, we have been reflecting today on the change in make-up that has taken place on our senior board over the past 30 years. In 1982, the equity partners of the firm comprised six men and one woman (14% female). In 2014, the equity partnership is made up of two men and four women (66% female).
Out of the total staff at Hanne & Co, over 50% of our team are women. We believe that our success in attracting and cultivating strong female talent is down to trusting that our solicitors, male or female, will continue to achieve the best results for clients when flexible working is promoted.
Emmeline Pankhurst’s husband Richard Pankhurst was a barrister who was reportedly known for supporting women’s right to vote and supported Emmeline’s political activities outside the home. ‘Equal opportunities’ has been a passion of Partner David Taylor’s (Head of our Employment Department) for many years. Though the make-up of our partnership in gender terms has changed dramatically over thirty years, we have to thank the personality of the partnership as a whole for making our firm a work place where equal gender opportunity exists.