Policy Evidence

Women and Equalities – in the House of Commons on 10th February 2021.

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Photo of Aaron Bell Aaron Bell Conservative, Newcastle-under-Lyme

What steps she is taking to ensure that her policies are informed by robust evidence.

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

We must have an equality agenda that is driven by the evidence. That is why we have launched an equality data programme, looking at the life paths of individuals across the country and ensuring that we have hard data about the barriers that people face, whether in education, employment or accessing capital for business.

Photo of Aaron Bell Aaron Bell Conservative, Newcastle-under-Lyme

I thank the Minister for her answer. Like her, I welcome the importance of data in all this. I also welcome the fact that last year the Government Equalities Office commissioned the Behavioural Insights Team to produce a summary of the evidence on unconscious bias training. As she will know, the report highlighted that there was no evidence that this training changed behaviour in the long term, nor did it improve workplace equality. It also stated that there is emerging evidence of unintended negative consequences. So I am glad that the Government are phasing it out in the civil service and that this House is doing the same, but can she assure me and the House that any suggested replacement for this training must be supported by the evidence of what works?

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

My hon. Friend is right that unconscious bias training has been shown not to work and in fact can be counterproductive. The best way to improve equality is to make the system fairer by increasing choice and openness. For example, making systems around pay and promotion more transparent and open has been shown by the evidence to improve equality for everybody.

Photo of Caroline Nokes Caroline Nokes Chair, Women and Equalities Committee, Chair, Women and Equalities Committee

I was very pleased to hear my right hon. Friend’s commitment to robust evidence. Does she agree that there is hard data that, when there is enforcement of reporting, more companies publish their gender pay gap? With no enforcement in place, so far this year, just one third of last year’s total has reported. Is that robust enough evidence for her that without enforcement there is a danger that equal pay will slide backwards?

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 am pleased to say that we saw the gender pay gap fall to a record low last year, but we need to continue making progress on that issue, including making sure that we are tackling the cause of the gender pay gap, and 35% of the cause is the fact that women and men are in different occupations. So we need to make it easier for women to get into high-paid jobs in areas such as technology, science, and engineering.