In Conversation: Secretary-General Patricia Scotland QC and Kate Gilmore share their journeys as women leaders

15 March 2021

As part of a series of virtual events to celebrate International Women’s Day and Commonwealth Day last week, The Rt Hon Patricia Scotland QC, Secretary-General of the Commonwealth, was joined in conversation by Kate Gilmore, Fellow at the Carr Center for Human Rights Policy of Harvard University.

In the lively conversation, they discussed topics related to the urgent need to achieve gender equality.

From the impact of the climate crisis on young people to personal stories about their individual career paths, they shared inspiring insights and valuable advice in their discussion to mark the special day of dual celebration.

Women leaders

Capturing the question at the heart of the conversation, Kate Gilmore asked: “What are the options we have to more rapidly bring young women in particular – because they're often left behind – and young men, to the table of decision-making?”

Emphasising each individual’s ability to create change, the Secretary-General replied: “Every single one of us, no matter where we are in society and communities, we all have power – and we all have more power than we know.”

Referring to the modest background of US civil rights activist Rosa Parks, she added: “Martin Luther King Jr walked with Rosa Parks, Rosa Parks didn’t walk with Martin Luther King Jr”

All or none of us

When asked to advise young women setting out on their journeys towards leadership, Kate Gilmore responded: “Know who you are. Life will change you, things will change around you, but have a constant. And let that constant be principles and values, and honesty with yourself.”

She continued: “Think less about achievement and recognition – and more about contribution.”

Looking back over her progression to leadership as Secretary-General of the Commonwealth, Patricia Scotland recalled: “When I came in, I said I wanted to put the ‘wealth’ back into Commonwealth. But I also wanted to put the ‘common’ back into the wealth.

“Because it has to be all of us, or none of us.”

Commonwealth Day

The conversation is part of celebrations for 2021 Commonwealth Day, which this year fell on the same day as International Women’s Day with the theme: ‘Women in leadership: Achieving an equal future in a COVID-19 world’.

To celebrate this alignment, the Secretariat is recognising women leaders from across the Commonwealth through its #SheLeadsTheWay social media campaign.

You can listen to the full podcast episode on YouTube or play on SoundCloud.