The Government have taken significant steps to support women in businesses. We have launched the Government-backed Women’s Business Council and published the women in finance charter. The recent Rose review and report also shows that good progress is being made to overcome barriers for women entrepreneurs.
The majority of people employed in the wedding industry are women. The road map out of lockdown offers very little hope for the wedding industry or the supply chain as couples would rather wait than have only six, 15 or 30 guests. What assurances can my hon. Friend provide that women in the wedding industry will receive the support their businesses need to survive until June 2021, or even beyond?
I thank my hon. Friend for her great support; I know how much she supports women entrepreneurs, especially with Derbys Finest. Since March 2020, the Government have provided an unprecedented package of financial support to businesses, including those in the wedding sector. That package of support is kept under regular review. My colleague the Minister for Small Business regularly meets the industry-led weddings taskforce to understand the impact of covid-19 on businesses in this sector.
Research clearly shows that gender-diverse boards perform better on every single measure, so it stands to reason that diversity across the workforce can only be a benefit. Will the Minister confirm what steps the Government are taking to encourage more women into business, particularly in areas such as engineering and science, in which they are traditionally under-represented?
My hon. Friend makes a really important point, and I thank him for his tireless work to champion women, especially in his role as chair of the all-party parliamentary group on women and enterprise. I sincerely thank him for that. FTSE companies have indeed made great progress, and we have seen a more than 60% increase in the number of women on boards in the past six years. The Government recognise that the science, technology, engineering and maths workforce is vital to increasing the UK’s productivity and economic growth, and I am really pleased that Government-funded programmes such as the STEM ambassador programme and the CREST awards are successfully encouraging young women into STEM roles.