I first met leading climate change diplomat Christiana Figueres in July 2017 and listened to her passionate speech to a room of business leaders about ‘choosing optimism over climate doom’.
While she spoke I saw something spark in the eyes of the audience that is so often absent from these events when we talk about the stark facts of climate change – a realization that we have a choice – we can accept the results of the trajectory we are on or we can choose what Christiana called “stubborn optimism” in the matter – a belief that we can take control of these events and shape them to meet the challenges we face.
Never has there been a more pressing moment to choose this path, and in my work as Minister for Clean Growth and Energy I’m seeing more and more women like Christiania driving real change and energy in the world of climate change up and down the country and on the international stage – and I pay tribute to all of them.
And as we have embraced the option of optimism, there has never been a more pertinent time to have a frank discussion about the barriers that exist that may prevent some women from being able to make that choice to thrive in their chosen field.
To pull down those barriers we need greater transparency and it starts from the top.
Under the last two Conservative-led governments, our largest companies have made great strides towards meeting challenging targets for the number of women on boards with the number more than doubling since 2011 to almost 29%.
But we need companies at all levels to quicken the pace of change- which is why we are urging businesses to renew their commitment to diversity and to root out and fix gender pay disparity or other workplace inequalities. That is why we have introduced a deadline of April 4th by which all companies with more than 250 employees must publish their gender pay levels. My message to those managers who have not yet reported is that time is up. You have to lead the way on this initiative – and government will join you – and then we all have a duty to act on the data when we see it. That’s the way we unlock the talent of so many of those who can contribute to Britain’s bright future and make sure that everyone can achieve their potential.
I’m delighted we are seeing people like Christiana Figueres already setting the bar high in this field, but there is much more to do to create the right environment for the next generation of world-class female leaders.
It’s through transparency and a willingness to act on results that we will deliver what we need and I’m proud to be part of this Government that wants to #PressforProgress in the workplace and in all walks for life.
Claire Perry is the Conservative MP for Devizes and minister for clean growth and energy