Gender Equality in Boardrooms

Women and Equalities – in the House of Commons on 17th October 2019.

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Photo of Carol Monaghan Carol Monaghan Shadow SNP Spokesperson (Armed Forces and Veterans), Shadow SNP Spokesperson (Education)

What steps the Government are taking to increase gender equality in boardrooms in the (a) private and (b) public sector.

Photo of Elizabeth Truss Elizabeth Truss The Secretary of State for International Trade and President of the Board of Trade, Minister for Women and Equalities

Women represent half of the population, and I believe that we are missing out on a huge amount of talent because we do not have enough women in senior positions. I commend the work of Helena Morrissey who has achieved fantastic results with the 30% Club.

Photo of Carol Monaghan Carol Monaghan Shadow SNP Spokesperson (Armed Forces and Veterans), Shadow SNP Spokesperson (Education)

I do a lot of work with science and technology companies and there is still a struggle in many of them to get women into senior positions or get women in at all. We have been using the carrot for decades now to try to get more women into the boardroom; when are we going to start using the stick?

Photo of Elizabeth Truss Elizabeth Truss The Secretary of State for International Trade and President of the Board of Trade, Minister for Women and Equalities

The hon. Lady talks about science and technology, and one of the big issues is the gap that we have in school education, with fewer girls going on to study maths and science later in their school careers and girls losing confidence earlier on in their school careers. The way for us to tackle that it is to improve our education system, which is why we introduced things such as the English baccalaureate and tougher maths GCSEs, and why we are working more on maths education. I am passionate about this, and I am very keen to drive it forward as Minister for Women and Equalities.

Photo of Eddie Hughes Eddie Hughes Conservative, Walsall North

The construction industry is notoriously male-dominated, so will the Minister join me in congratulating Caroline Gumble, who has just become chief exec of the Chartered Institute of Building, of which I am a very proud member?

Photo of Elizabeth Truss Elizabeth Truss The Secretary of State for International Trade and President of the Board of Trade, Minister for Women and Equalities

I completely agree: as well as Bob the builder, we need Brenda the builder. I congratulate my hon. Friend’s constituent on her fantastic achievement. In every walk of life, it should not matter whether someone is a woman or a man; it should matter how good they are and how much effort they put into the job. That is what we champion on this side of the House. We believe that it is about someone’s qualities as an individual, not what group they belong to.

Photo of Barry Sheerman Barry Sheerman Labour/Co-operative, Huddersfield

Does the Minister agree with me and the many women in my constituency who believe that International Women’s Day could be made a public holiday? That would raise all the issues that we have been talking about today and give them focus.

Photo of Elizabeth Truss Elizabeth Truss The Secretary of State for International Trade and President of the Board of Trade, Minister for Women and Equalities

I have to say that my focus in this job is not on bank holidays; it is on getting more women into work and getting them up the career ladder once they are in jobs. However, if the hon. Gentleman is offering to take on some work while women have a day off, I am sure that we would be very interested in that.

Photo of Alison Thewliss Alison Thewliss Shadow SNP Spokesperson (Treasury), Shadow SNP Spokesperson (Housing, Communities and Local Government)

The Bank of England Monetary Policy Committee has nine members, eight of whom are women. Will the Minister encourage the Bank to employ more women in senior roles, and the Chancellor to appoint more women when he gets the chance?

Photo of Elizabeth Truss Elizabeth Truss The Secretary of State for International Trade and President of the Board of Trade, Minister for Women and Equalities

The hon. Lady is right. I describe finance as the final frontier for feminism. We have never had a female Chancellor, and we have never had a female Governor of the Bank of England. The Governor’s job is coming up very shortly, so I am sure that the Chancellor will hear what the hon. Lady has to say.