Alex Hatchman


Alex Hatchman, chief strategy and operating officer|Fletchers Solicitors

International Women’s Day is celebrated annually on 8 March. Why is this day so important? And why is it that, in spite of unprecedented progress as a human race, we’ll need to celebrate this day for years (decades) to come?

The world’s current population stands at 7.8 billion, with a near equal number of men and women. If we look at leadership through a population lens, and analyse the top 50 countries around the world, we see something quite staggering (see box below).

In these countries, which together account for 6.6 billion (or 85% of the world’s population), there are just two women leaders: Angela Merkel of Germany and Bidhya Devi Bhandari of Nepal. Between them they lead just 0.1 billion (2%) of that 6.6 billion.

If we then look through an economic lens and analyse the top 10 global economies, the results are no less staggering. In these countries, which together account for 66% of the world’s wealth, there is just one woman leader: again, Angela Merkel of Germany, whose economy accounts for 5% of global GDP.

Closer to home, 6% of CEOs in the FTSE 100 are women. There are in fact more men called Steve in this elite group than women! Even closer to home, among the largest UK law firms, latest data shows that 11% are led by a woman, while 19% of partners are women.

The proportion of women partners stood at 15% in 2012, which demonstrates that progress is being made. But before comforting ourselves that we’re on the right trajectory – or that, in the worstcase scenario, we can bring in quotas to force more equal representation – consider this: the future world of work will present women with additional, not diminished, headwinds.

There are three key reasons for this:

• Proportionately, more women work in low-skilled jobs, and these roles are most vulnerable to large-scale automation.
• Women spend considerably more time, on average, on unpaid care work, leaving them less opportunity to upskill or retrain in order to stay ‘relevant’.
• And finally, in STEM subjects (science, technology, engineering and maths), whose importance in tomorrow’s technologically driven world is paramount, just 25% of UK graduates are women.

In spite of the global population of women being 49.6%, on all measures examined female representation was somewhere between 2% and 11%. This is why International Women’s Day is important, and why it will need to be celebrated and embraced for decades to come.

The law is blessed with many brilliant minds, most of whom are driven by upholding justice and solving injustice. Is this not an injustice that together we need to solve?

This article can be found in Briefing magazine: Look who’s talking



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