The world is counting down the minutes until Kate Middleton, the Duchess of Cambridge and wife of Prince William, gives birth (it could be today!) They are arguably the world’s most famous couple, and definitely one of the most attractive. For many, this is an exciting new chapter in a real-life fairytale that began with their amazing wedding. Kids have Disney, but we have Kate and Will.
As romantic and wonderful as this birth is, there are deeper implications. Under the recently passed 2013 Succession to the Crown Act, if the Duchess gives birth to a baby girl, the baby would be the automatic heir to the throne even if a younger brother comes after her. In the past, girls weren’t necessarily considered princesses at birth, but now they have more rights.
This new law could also initiate change and bring gender equality to other facets of English hierarchy. Upper class women in England, known as the aristocracy (Prince Harry’s new girlfriend Cressida Bonas for instance), can’t directly inherit family titles and estates. Apparently, when the British watch “Downton Abbey,” the treatment of women doesn’t seem that shocking. The only thing different is the (fabulous) clothes. The Succession to the Crown Act is already making some impact on this archaic system.
This isn’t just about titles. This is about changing the role of women in England. Phil Dampier, author of What’s in the Queen’s Handbag: And Other Royal Secrets, told Marie Claire, “The birth of a girl will be a seminal moment in the fight for female equality and we can only hope that this will have a ripple effect on other aspects of life in the UK, with more women gaining top positions across government and industry.”
Like the United States, there is a gross lack of gender equality among top leadership positions in England. According to The Independent, only 17.3 percent of board members of FTSE 100 companies are women, and just three firms have female chief executives. The UK has considered implementing a quota system. Similar quotas have helped make an impact in the number of women on executive boards in other European countries, including Norway.
Prime Minister David Cameron said, “The evidence is that there is a positive link between women in leadership and business performance. If we fail to unlock the potential of women in the labour market, we’re not only failing those individuals, we’re failing our whole economy.” Unfortunately, the quota, or “golden skirt” policy, failed to pass the government ministers in May.
Beyond boosting gender equality, a mini-Kate Middleton would have a significant impact on commerce in England. Businesses were already making merchandise and souvenirs just days after the pregnancy announcement. Kate Middleton has tremendous power when it comes to her style. She has boosted sales at clothing companies like Zara, Talbots, Reiss, and Topshop as “RepliKates,” women who emulate her style, clammer to own items she is photographed wearing. When she wore a Burberry trench in 2012, the coat sold out instantly on the retailer’s website. The Kate Middleton effect will be even stronger with her baby in tow, especially if the baby happens to be a girl.
Congrats to Kate and Will (and, maybe, the future Queen of England)!