Baroness (Shami) Chakrabarti CBE – What advice would you give to your younger self?

15 March 2018

This article is a part of our Skills Young People Need for Work in 2030 campaign, with the i newspaper, helping share what skills leaders of today think are going to be the top ways young people can prepare for the careers of tomorrow. Be sure to follow #Skills2030 to see their top advice over March.

Baroness (Shami) Chakrabarti CBE: The advice I’d give my younger self

‘What advice would you give to your younger self?’ Where should I start? If I could reach back across the space-time continuum to counsel against this or that twist in the path – I would not. But if I was given the opportunity to commune with my younger self I would implore her to have more confidence. It took me many years to arrive at my personal motto – “anyone’s equal, no one’s superior”. That’s the sentiment I would want to instil not just in my younger self but also in the next generation of young women. So often women are undervalued, including by themselves. Society, the economy and media conspire to entrench inequality instead of reducing it. But as humans we ARE all of equal worth and need to come together to demand equal rights, equal pay and equal opportunities.

Women find themselves disproportionately amongst the poorest on earth, on account of either overt or more subtle discrimination in the context of property rights, the labour market and professions, or just a huge and disproportionate share of the domestic and caring responsibilities within the family that are treated as either completely without monetary value or significantly under-resourced and rewarded. Unsurprisingly therefore, it is suggested that it will take 170 years for women to achieve even mere pay equality with men. One obvious solution is for government to invest more in both childcare and social care. Investing in the care industries would not only create more jobs but it would also help to address some of the central economic and social problems confronting contemporary societies: low productivity, the care deficit, demographic changes and continuing gender inequality in paid and unpaid work, as more women work in the caring sector (eg 77 per cent of NHS staff are women) and others who benefit from it may be then freed up to work elsewhere.

It is hard to argue against the clear logic that investing in employment that provides a public good is a far better approach than cutting the taxes of the wealthy in difficult economic times. More general employment and household income stimulates demand in the economy more generally. By contrast, delivering tax cuts at the top will lead to the hoarding of wealth and quite possibly economic stagnation as opposed to the sharing of wealth or any other consequential societal benefits. This is not to mention the fact that professional roles requiring interpersonal skills will be more robust in the face of the potential threats posed by automation and artificial intelligence. I hope I’ve always been an encourager of younger women, not just in campaigning terms but in real life. It’s a huge responsibility that we should be alert to in all aspects of our arrangements – in the workplace, in the family, in the community and I think we should take it very seriously. Take up the opportunity to engage and speak in schools, mentor someone or be a referee – it is always worth it.

This week, I’ll be speaking as part of the Speakers for Schools 2018 campaign, which is sending public figures to speak at schools across the UK, focusing on the theme ‘What skills will young people need for work in 2030?’ I’ll be using that platform to encourage young women (and men) to invest in emotional skills ready for a caring economy, which will not only see greater gender equality but engender greater resilience in young women to thrive in every sphere of human activity.

Baroness (Shami) Chakrabarti CBE, Shadow Attorney General and Barrister and 39 Essex Chambers 

You can read this article on the i newspaper’s website here.

Our Skills 2030 campaign will continue with more speakers across the UK. Keep up with the coverage of this talk series here.