THE BLOG

Let's End Gender Inequality - Once and for All

19/11/2015 13:16 GMT | Updated 19/11/2016 10:12 GMT

You cannot have true opportunity without equality - the Prime Minister's words at conference this year resonated with women everywhere - from the Hollywood hills to the corridors of the Commons. We've seen a surge in the debate around how we can support women and girls everywhere from the classroom to the boardroom.

And as Minister for Women and Equalities I'm committed to ensuring equality of opportunity is at the core of this Government's agenda so that every woman and girl has every opportunity to reach their potential.

Yesterday, the ONS has published their gender pay gap statistics, showing that the gender pay gap remains the lowest on record. Yet today's statistics also show not enough change has been achieved - at 19.2% it is clear we need to go further to remove this unacceptable gap.

We have achieved some momentous milestone on our journey over the last few months; the Prime Minister has set out a clear plan for eradicating the gender pay gap, we are driving forward work that will force all large private, public and voluntary sector employers to publish their gender pay gap and bonus information. One in every four people sitting on a FTSE 100 board is now a woman - double the number five years ago. This is a testament to the success of a government-backed business led approach, as championed by Lord Davies.

This is real progress but now is not the time to take our foot off the pedal - today's figures make clear that we still have a long way to go. That's why I am calling on everyone, no matter what role you play in your organisation, to ask questions, take action and step up the pace.

This isn't just a job for government but the job of every woman and every man - because as Lord Davies has demonstrated, men have just as big a role to play as women - to drive this work forward.

Achieving gender equality isn't just the right thing to do - it makes good business sense. The gender pay gap isn't only a measure of inequality but a measure of lost productivity. As a nation we cannot afford to waste the talents of a single person, let alone half our population. We need to address this mismatch, support women to achieve their full potential, and in doing so maximise economic growth.

But this isn't just about data on a page. It's about ensuring that at every opportunity women and girls are given the chance to maximise their talents and reach their full potential. Whether that's encouraging girls to consider the widest range of careers, supporting parents returning to work or helping women to progress through the career ranks and have the security of a well-paid job.

Our efforts must start early. We're passionate about raising aspirations in schools, so no child thinks a career is 'not for them' - because of their gender, race, sexuality or background. One of the Government's key priorities is to inspire more young women and girls to take up science, technology, engineering and mathematics (STEM) subjects alongside the arts.

This includes our work through the "Your Life" campaign and the new Careers and Enterprise Company, to be led by employers and independent of government. This company will help transform young people's careers experiences so they can aspire to great things and know how to achieve them.

We're also helping women progress in work. The government has extended the amount of free childcare from 15 hours to 30 hours a week for working parents, extended flexible working and modernised parental leave to give parents more choice and control.

The increased National Living Wage will also go a long way to supporting women, as will raising the tax threshold - 60% of those benefitting from the further increases in the income tax personal allowance will be women.

In short, our efforts must span right across society. With businesses and a one nation government working together to finally solve this, building on the momentum that's already being established, we can achieve equality.

Nicky Morgan is Secretary of State for Education and Minister for Women and Equalities