Boris Johnson has sacked five senior ministers, as he begun reshuffling his cabinet on Thursday morning.
The prime minister removed Julian Smith as Northern Ireland secretary despite him having recently helped secure a power-sharing deal at Stormont.
In a post on Facebook, Villiers said the prime minister told her she had to “make way for someone new”.
Senior ministers including chancellor Sajid Javid, home secretary Priti Patel and foreign secretary Dominic Raab look as if they will remain in place.
It is the first cabinet reshuffle since Johnson won a comfortable majority at the general election in December.
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Alok Sharma is expected to be promoted from his current international development job, while paymaster general Oliver Dowden is rumoured to be the new culture secretary.
There are currently only eight women in Johnson’s 31-strong cabinet team and it has suggested this figure could actually go down rather than up.
Female MPs that are in line for promotion include defence minister Anne-Marie Trevelyan, prisons minister Lucy Frazer, former Brexit minister Suella Braverman and Chichester MP Gillian Keegan.
Downing Street has indicated the most junior ministerial rank – parliamentary under-secretary of state level – is likely to have a 50-50 gender split after the reshuffle.
Other factors at play in this reshuffle include filling the vacant role in charge of the Cop26 UN climate summit, with Michael Gove’s name having been floated.