There was a big piece of news out of the U.K. on Friday that I haven’t properly addressed yet: Brenda Hale was appointed the first female president of the U.K. Supreme Court.
It’s a crowning achievement for a woman who has spent her decades-long career attaining female first after female first.
Hale’s career started at the University of Manchester where she was a junior lecturer on the law faculty. When she was appointed a high court judge in 1994, she was the first to have achieved the honor as an academic rather than a practicing barrister. In 1999, she was just the second woman seated on the court of appeal, and in 2004 she was named the first female Law Lord. In 2009, she made history yet again as the first woman justice of the Supreme Court. Now she’ll be its president.
Following the announcement on Friday, some sought to downplay Hale’s gender, with one (male) barrister tweeting that her sex should be ignored “for a sec.”
“Brenda Hale is a great judge. She writes clearly, is principled, is respected by other judges.”
Surely that is true, but Hale has herself cited the gender and ethnic makeup of judges as a matter of democracy.
“We are the instrument by which the will of Parliament and government is enforced upon the people,” she said in 2004. “It does matter that judges should be no less representative of the people than the politicians and civil servants who govern us.”
She has not always been so diplomatic, at one point bashing the institutional bias that’s produced a judiciary that’s “not only mainly male, overwhelmingly white but also largely the product of a limited range of educational institutions and social backgrounds.” (As a graduate of Cambridge, Hale, a family law expert, has acknowledged that she personally benefited from this system.)
Yet, during her eight-year tenure as the only woman on the Supreme Court bench—the court is finally getting its second-ever female justice in October—her presence no doubt colored the court’s stance on big-ticket decisions. In 2011, for instance, she delivered a lead judgement ruling that said the definition of domestic violence should not be limited to physical abuse.
Sam Smethers, CEO of the Fawcett Society that advocates for equality, has cheered Hale’s appointment—not just because she’s a woman, “but because her judgments often reflect a true understanding of women’s lives and the violence and discrimination they experience.”
|Wheels of change|
|Nonprofits Village Bicycle Project, World Bicycle Relief, and Ghana Bamboo Bikes are working to make two-wheelers more ubiquitous in African countries like Ghana, Uganda, Nigeria, and South Africa. Their efforts are aimed, in part, at reducing congestion from automobiles, but they’re also speeding up women’s long walks to school, work, and markets. Shorter commutes mean women have more time to spend on economic and educational endeavors.|
|First daughter drama|
|In Pakistan, a corruption scandal known as “Fontgate” is threatening to bring down rising political star Maryam Sharif, daughter of Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif. As part of a probe into the Sharif family’s finances, Maryam Sharif submitted papers showing she’s the trustee—not owner—of an apartment in question. But the document she filed was written in a font—Calibri—that wasn’t available at the time of the document’s purported drafting, which has fueled allegations that it was fabricated. The first daughter is seen as a possible successor to her father, and—because of her advocacy on issues like an anti-honor killing bill—her potential fall from grace is considered, by some, a loss for the nation’s women.|
|The right medicine|
|Telemedicine startup Maven specializes in women’s health care, providing advice to women via video appointments with a network of health practitioners. The company serves both individual women and employers like Snap Inc., which use it as a health benefit for female employees. Maven, founded by Katherine Ryder, just announced a $10.8 million Series A round, bringing the company’s total funding to over $15 million.|
|Meg on the move?|
|Bloomberg reports that Uber wants to name its new CEO by early September and that one of the remaining candidates to replace Travis Kalancik is Hewlett Packard Enterprise chief Meg Whitman. An HPE spokesman told the site Whitman is “fully committed to HPE and plans to stay with the company until her work is done.”|
|Christy Clark’s courtship|
|The latest issue of Fortune magazine peeks inside Canada’s effort to lure entrepreneurs and high-skilled tech workers from an increasingly isolationist U.S. One champion of that effort is British Columbia Premier Christy Clark. “While other countries are looking in, let’s be a country and a province that is looking out,” she told a tech conference earlier this year.|
|At Mexico’s mic|
|Stand-up comedy is late in coming to Mexico—comedians have long been controlled by the leading TV networks. But as the art spreads, comedian Sofia Nino de Rivera is leading the charge with self-deprecating humor, sold-out shows, and a one-woman hit on Netflix.|
|Jin Soon Choi got into the nail business when she took a manicurist job shortly after immigrating to New York City from Korea. “I took the path that many fellow Koreans took at the time,” she says. Today, she’s one of the most sought-after editorial manicurists in the fashion industry and owner of four New York City nail salons as well as an eponymous line of nail polishes.|
|A letter to Liu|
|U.S. Sen. Marco Rubio (R–Florida) has written a letter to Liu Xia, the widow of Chinese dissident and Nobel Peace Prize winner Liu Xiaobo, who died earlier this month in jail. He was sentenced in 2009 after calling for sweeping political reforms. Chinese authorities say Liu Xia is a free woman, but there’s growing consensus that she’s being illegally confined to her home. In his note, Rubio floats the idea of sanctioning China for its treatment of the couple, stating that the U.S.’s failure to act would send “a devastating message” to others being deprived of their basic human rights.|