The annual debate (on Thursday 1 March) included around 30 female and male members who spanned topics from the plight of women in developing countries to their entrepreneurial role in business. Tributes were also paid to the late journalist Marie Colvin.
Baroness Verma (Conservative) tabled and opened the debate with a speech on the talent and potential of women. She said: 'Women matter, and they should matter, to every Government, every economy and every family. Like so many of your Lordships, I have been involved in issues around girls and women for as far back as I can remember.
'Great Britain has been at the heart of global change for women and girls, and we must remain eternally grateful to women such as Emmeline Pankhurst, whose vision was one of women as equals, women having power and influence over the direction of their lives.'
Baroness Gale (Labour), former Party Women’s Officer for Wales spoke about Welsh women during the St. David's Day debate. She paid her respects to Lady Rhondda, the active suffragette and leading feminist in the inter-war years. She said: 'How have the actions of Viscountess Rhondda helped other women? She showed that women can succeed in a man's world. She was a great businesswoman, first working with her father and later, after his death, she continued to run the businesses she had inherited.'
The debate also had several male contributors, like Lord Davies of Abersoch (Labour) who spoke of the need for more female role models in business. 'Women now account for 15 per cent of the FTSE 100. We have had the largest ever annual movement in the UK. Over the past year there have been about 100 new female non-executive director appointments - what great news. A great development is that 50 per cent of them had never sat on a board of a public company before,' he explained.
Baroness Benjamin (Liberal Democrat) followed and praised the work of Marie Colvin. 'She won the Women of the Year Window to the World Award in 2001 for her bravery and work in journalism. She often said, "I go into places by choice but the people I am covering have no choice". She will be truly missed.'
Baroness Morris of Bolton (Conservative), former Shadow Minister for Women and chairman of the Conservative Middle East Council, spoke of women in the Middle East, saying: 'Much of the success of women in the Middle East is due to enlightened rulers and governments who understand the importance of women in society and to the economy. According to a 2010 McKinsey report, it is leadership that is crucial to breaking the gender difference-leaders of countries or leaders of industry will make the difference.'
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