Nicky Morgan, education secretary, minister for women and equalities, MP for Loughborough and Stylist’s resident soothsayer, predicts what life will be like for women in 20 years’ time
1. We’ll be printing our own clothes
Online shopping will seem horribly old-fashioned in two decades’ time, when experts predict we will be able to download patterns, type in our exact measurements and print clothes on our own 3D printers. This may sound unrealistic but when you consider inventions like OpenKnit, a 3D knitting machine with a digital hub to share garment designs, and innovators like designer Danit Peleg, who has just unveiled her first 3D printed collection, it’s nearer than we think. While technology will be key to the future of fashion, so too will diversity. Last year, I was inspired to see models reflecting diverse body types on the international catwalks, from model Winnie Harlow, who suffers from the skin condition vitiligo yet also fronts fashion brand Desigual’s advertising campaigns, to 69-year-old Charlotte Rampling and transgender model Andreja Pejic, who has modelled both men’s and women’s fashion for Jean-Paul Gaultier and Marc Jacobs. It’s also great to see the fashion industry celebrating strong, smart female role models such as Olympic gold medallist and celebrated sportswoman Jessica Ennis-Hill.
2. Speaking in code will be normal
Twenty years from now coding will be a skill equivalent to speaking a foreign language, with as many women coding as men. While currently just 17% of people working in technology are women, this figure will change dramatically in the coming years. Already, more girls than ever are taking maths at A-level and in 2014 the UK became the first G7 country to add coding to the curriculum. By 2036, primary school children learning to code today will be graduating and a new generation of female engineers, programmers and scientists will be unleashed. Coding will become important to all areas of our working life, which means, for us adults, schemes like Hour of Code, a global initiative which aims to demystify coding, will become essential to the future of our careers.
3. Equal pay will be a defunct issue
By 2036, it will be shocking to think that there was a time when men and women were paid differently. That is why the Prime Minister and I put through legislation last year to force companies with more than 250 employees to publish their pay gap. Over the next 20 years, women will be represented on company boards (the figure has already almost doubled over the last four years), work in the highest-paid sectors and own their own businesses, putting them in a position to drive change. According to the Office for National Statistics, the number of self-employed women is increasing at a faster rate than the number of men. In 2014, over one million small and medium-sized enterprises in the UK were majority-led by women, which now contribute around £85billion to the UK economy. By 2036, with the help of improved childcare and flexible working, there will be more women making it to the top of their professions and holding senior executive roles.
4. Women will be on match of the day
Until a few years ago, women’s football was considered by many to be unbroadcastable, but thanks to the success of England’s women’s team, who finished third in last year’s World Cup, along with campaigns such as Stylist’s Fair Game and Sport England’s inspiring This Girl Can, it’s now a regular fixture on BBC2. The FA predicts that women’s football will become the second most popular team sport by 2018, and with women’s football a normal part of sports news coverage on TV and in print, our talented sports women are set to feature on Match Of The Day just as much as men by 2036.
5. Women will make up half of parliament
We’ve already seen some of the archaic traditions of parliament abolished – women and children have walked through the voting lobbies (traditionally only men could walk the corridors of Parliament) and childcare facilities are now a part of the palace. However, with only 191 female MPs, women still only take up less than a third of seats. In 2036, men and women will be equally represented on the benches and across the ministerial ranks. This will make a huge difference to the political agenda and will dispel the notion that there are ‘women’s issues’ in politics – women have a stake in all issues. It’s unbelievable that Britain has only ever had one woman leading the country, and that was now over 26 years ago, but, with ever-increasing female representation in government (at the last election the number of women MPs rose by a third), I’m confident the next 20 years will see at least one other woman take up residence in 10 Downing Street.
My 2016 pledge to women
“I will continue to fight for equality, ensure women’s voices are heard across government and dismantle the barriers that hold women back. We made significant progress towards the elimination of the gender pay gap in 2015 and this year we’ll go even further as our game-changing new law turns our pledge into a legal reality.”
Photography: Getty Images