Women in the Economy

Women and Equalities – in the House of Commons at 10:30 am on 12th January 2012.

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Photo of Nadine Dorries Nadine Dorries Conservative, Mid Bedfordshire 10:30 am, 12th January 2012

What steps she is taking to increase the role of women in the economy.

Photo of Theresa May Theresa May Minister for Women and Equalities, The Secretary of State for the Home Department

Using the skills and qualifications of women who are currently out of work would deliver economic benefits of £15 billion to £20 billion a year for the UK. The actions that we are taking, for example through the Work programme and our support for women’s enterprise, will ensure that that untapped potential can be used to stimulate economic growth.

Photo of Nadine Dorries Nadine Dorries Conservative, Mid Bedfordshire

A year on from Lord Davies of Abersoch’s report on the number of women in boardrooms, minimal progress has been made. It seems amazing that men who can run boardrooms, businesses and banks so effectively are unable to introduce policies of fairness and equality. What further does the Minister think can be done to encourage organic change within businesses, banks and boardrooms and avoid a demeaning and degrading measure of quotas and shortlists?

Photo of Theresa May Theresa May Minister for Women and Equalities, The Secretary of State for the Home Department

I thank my hon. Friend for making the point that the best way to get change is not to impose a quota on a country but to encourage people to recognise the talents that exist within their companies. [Interruption.] Fiona Mactaggart asks what is happening, and I am about to answer that, because it was one of the issues that my hon. Friend Nadine Dorries raised. Since 1 March last year, 27% of board appointments to FTSE 100 companies have been female, and we are now down to only 10 all-male boards in the FTSE 100. Progress is being made as a result of Lord Davies’s report, but of course we continue to monitor the matter and will continue to work with companies to encourage them to use the talent available from the women who are in those companies and can be appointed to their boards.

Photo of Jenny Chapman Jenny Chapman Shadow Minister (Justice)

Does the Minister agree with the independent report published by the Institute for Fiscal Studies last week, which shows that on average, the Government’s decisions weaken the incentive for those with children to undertake paid work?

Photo of Theresa May Theresa May Minister for Women and Equalities, The Secretary of State for the Home Department

What I would say to the hon. Lady is that the Government are already taking steps to ensure that we can help women into the workplace, particularly in the Work programme and the work that we will be doing through business mentors to help women who wish to set up their own businesses. The most important thing that will in due course help to ensure that women can get into the workplace, by making work pay, is the introduction of the universal credit.

Photo of Fiona Bruce Fiona Bruce Conservative, Congleton

At the recent north-west women’s enterprise day in my constituency, 200 inspiring women who had started up their own businesses or were about to were given an excellent range of advice. What can be done to roll out that kind of scheme across the country, and in particular to encourage women to take the critical step from not just working in their businesses, but employing others and creating jobs?

Photo of Theresa May Theresa May Minister for Women and Equalities, The Secretary of State for the Home Department

I commend the women’s enterprise action that was taken in the north-west. That is a very good example of what can be done at local and regional level to ensure that we encourage women to use their full potential in the economy, which is to their benefit and that of the UK as a whole. Our introduction of business mentors is one thing that will help women not only to set up businesses, but to grow them in a way that will lead to them being employers.