To say that recent months have been awash with developments on gender and equality issues would be an understatement. The break of the Weinstein scandal in October triggered something of a domino effect of sexual harassment claims and allegations, not just in Hollywood but in Westminster as well as here in Brussels. 

The revelations sparked an international campaign of solidarity of women sharing their stories of sexual harassment with hashtag #MeToo. It became rare for a day to pass without a new allegation of sexual harassment being made against a celebrity figure or high-level politician, including Hollywood actor Kevin Spacey, UK Secretary of State for Defence Michael Fallon, Labour MP Kelvin Hopkins and UK First Secretary of the State and Minister for the Cabinet Office, Damian Green, to name a few.  

Baroness Hale became sworn in as the first female president of the Supreme Court on 2 October. The Baroness has been providing women with inspiration for many years, especially since she was appointed as the first ever female judge to sit in the Supreme Court back in 2004. Only a matter of weeks later Sarah Clarke became the first female in 650 years to be appointed to the parliamentary post of Black Rod. 

The EU ‘celebrated’ its Equal Pay Day on 3 November. The date marks the day from which women work ‘for free’ until the end of the year in consideration of the average gender pay gap of 16.3%. In the UK, the Equal Pay Day fell slightly later on 10 November to reflect a lower gender pay gap. Our colleagues at The Law Society of England and Wales organised a quiz and a bake sale which charged men 14.5 % more for cake. 

The subject of gender and equality simply covers far too many issues for us to write in detail about each one, so in this edition of the Brussels Agenda we have highlighted several specific challenges still facing women from discrimination in wages, to gender based violence and the general underrepresentation of women in certain professions and senior roles. We are also pleased to highlight the initiatives being taken by the Junior Lawyers Division of England and Wales, member states, such as Spain, EU institutions and corporate organisations to combat these challenges and promote fair and equal treatment in society. 

What we hope to achieve from this issue is to raise awareness of issues and show our support for all initiatives aimed at redressing the gender and equality imbalance.

We hope you can enjoy reading these thought provoking articles over a mince pie or two at this cold time of year.

We wish you all a Merry Christmas and a Happy New Year!

UK Law Societies Joint Brussels Office