Few people have knocked down more gender-based barriers than Patricia Scotland. Her current role as Secretary-General of the Commonwealth is the latest ‘first’ in a career which has seen her become the first black woman to become Queen’s Counsel (QC), the first black woman ever to become a minister in the UK Government and the first woman to take up the position as Attorney General for England. At 35, she was also the youngest woman ever to be made a QC - and now – aged 63, is busy serving 53 countries as the first female Secretary-General of the Commonwealth.
However, it is not just her personal achievements that have inspired women around the world – but her forceful pursuit of progressive change in each of her various posts. Secretary-General Scotland has worked to make gender mainstreaming a core element of the Commonwealth’s programme work while urging bold action to close the persistent economic gender gap between men and women around the world. At a 2018 World Investment Forum entitled ‘Women’s Economic Empowerment—Transforming Investments and Enterprise’, the Secretary-General affirmed: “Working for the economic empowerment of women is not only the right thing to do, it is also the smart thing to do. It contributes to human development and inclusive growth as well as to prosperous business.”
In furthering her dedication to women’s economic empowerment, the Secretary-General has implemented tools for Commonwealth member countries to estimate the economic cost of violence against women and girls. Additionally, Secretary-General Scotland is the Patron of the Corporate Alliance Against Domestic Violence which works with employers to lessen the impact of domestic violence in the workplace. She holds a similar role at the Chineke! Foundation which provides career opportunities to young Black and Minority Ethnic (BME) classical musicians in the UK and Europe. Secretary-General Scotland is also a patron of Children and Families Across Borders (CFAB), a charity dedicated to reuniting children who have been separated from their families.
In her short spell at the Commonwealth Secretariat, she has already tackled myriad future-oriented issues, from ocean protection to government debt management and from cyber-crime to intra-Commonwealth trade. Not surprisingly, many of the global issues that Secretary-General Scotland works on every day affect women disproportionately. Two-thirds of Commonwealth citizens are under the age of 30 including the next generation of female business leaders, innovators, and future heads of government, making her work vital to future economies.
Secretary-General Scotland has taken a stand to move the needle not just for women entrepreneurs to prosper, but for women everywhere to gain the assets, resources, and autonomy needed to reach their fullest potential and contribute to the prosperity of their communities.
Congratulations to Secretary-General Scotland – our 2019 WEConnect International Distinguished Champion.