In recognition for his hard work in pursuing cases for equal pay, Stefan Cross is just one of 20 solicitors in the UK who have been awarded an Honorary Queen’s Counsel (QC). Thanks to his hard work, over 250,000 women have won cases and more than £2bn has been paid in compensation.
His enthusiasm and hard work were evident while at Southampton; his time as a student had a personal impact on his life, as well as professional, and he took on as many roles as possible. While working as President of Connaught Hall, he met his wife as he showed her to her room on her first day at Southampton. They now have four children, one of whom also studied at Southampton and graduated in 2013 with a first in Politics and Philosophy; she has followed in her father’s footsteps, and gone on to work in Law.
Since his graduation, Stefan has maintained a close relationship with the University, taking on the roles of advisor and donor. In November 2018 he launched The Stefan Cross Centre for Women, Equality and Law on Highfield Campus, which aims to raise awareness of discrimination against women and girls, investigate the causes of this discrimination and seek effective solutions.
Southampton Connects Staff speaks to Stefan about his support for students at the University, the future of his Centre, and some of the highlights and challenges he has faced during his career.
What do you remember about student life here?
I was brought up as a Jehovah’s Witness, which meant no mixing with the wider community, so coming to the University was a big culture shock.
Some of your time at the University is spent visiting the students that you support with bursaries. What motivated you to assist these students?
It comes from my own experience as a kid growing up on a council estate with no money. I worked every day of every holiday to get by, but that’s far more difficult to do now, and I want these young people to aim high whatever their struggles.
What were the challenges of starting your own firm?
At first it was very difficult – just me and my computer in a tiny box room. It was hard, a huge challenge, and for the first year I thought I’d made a terrible mistake. Then the local newspaper decided to write a story about me, and that really kicked off our success. I knew that the women I wanted to help would not be able to afford to pay lawyer’s fees, so we became the only firm in the country to do all cases on a no win no fee basis.
What are your thoughts on how The Stefan Cross Centre for Women, Equality and Law may change the future for women and equality?
I think the academic study of law still has an important role to play in the fight for women’s rights and I feel the study of discrimination in the UK has been smothered by other issues or moved to other academic departments in recent times. I have funded this new programme because I want Southampton Law School to have the ability to participate in the debate. I hope the Centre can be just that: a centre for debate, and a way to facilitate engagement within the University, the academic sphere and the wider community.