23/09/2013 17:56 BST | Updated 23/09/2013 18:01 BST

Rachel Reeves Claims Osborne's Austerity Measures Target Women

Women are bearing the brunt of austerity measures because George Osborne has surrounded himself with a male-only team of ministers, Rachel Reeves said. The shadow chief secretary to the Treasury said female faces were needed around his top table and at the Bank of England to improve policy making.

Ed Balls congratulates Rachel Reeves at the Brighton conference

She spoke out after being asked at a Labour conference fringe meeting about Janet Yellen, who is favourite to end the male domination of the US Federal Reserve by being appointed its first female chair. "If you look at the Treasury team under George Osborne, there are five Treasury ministers, all of them men," she told the event hosted by the New Statesman magazine. "I don't think that's good for policy making, especially in the Treasury.

"79% of the changes to tax and benefits have hit women compared with men. Given that women earn less and own less than men, it doesn't really seem fair that they have to absorb four fifths of the cuts and tax increases. I'm sure that if there were more women at the top table those sort of things might be noticed."

She said that when she went to work for the Bank of England in 2000, she was one of only six female graduates in an intake of 37. "I remember having a few arguments with the head of personnel at the time who told me that it was not a problem, it was just that women were not studying the right subjects. That was not true. Women were studying economics at university they just weren't recruiting them.

"The Monetary Policy Committee has had in its history maybe five women on it but there is none on the MPC today and this Government have not appointed any women. There are women out there qualified to do the job but they haven't been given those opportunities."

She said returning to frontline politics after maternity leave had proved a "doddle" after the rigours of looking after her first-born daughter. And she said she was "proud to be socialist". Labour leader Ed Miliband told a voter in Brighton at the weekend that he was bringing back socialism.

Asked if the party wanted to "bash the rich", Reeves pointed to plans to raise more from the bank levy to pay for childcare, helping women get into the workforce and boosting family incomes. "If that's socialism then I'm proud to be a socialist," she said.