Boris Johnson has promoted female MPs during his reshuffle following criticism over the lack of women in Whitehall’s top jobs.
Two of the four great offices of state are now held by women after the prime minister promoted Liz Truss to foreign secretary.
However, campaigners point out that the number of women in cabinet has only gone up “a fraction”. Little appears to have changed in the government’s most senior ranks, with about a quarter of the cabinet being female.
However, the prime minister was expected to continue reshuffling more junior ministers on Thursday.
Defence secretary Ben Wallace said improving women’s representation in the cabinet was key in Johnson’s thinking during the reshuffle.
“The prime minister wanted to bring forward a number of women MPs, he’s determined to both level up not only in the country but also in my party’s representation around the cabinet table,” he told Sky News.
The prime minister kicked off the long-awaited reshuffle on Wednesday afternoon which also included a promotions for Nadine Dorries to culture secretary.
However, Amanda Milling was booted out as co-chair of the Tory party and replaced by Oliver Dowden.
The shake-up will start to address previous criticism levelled at the prime minister that he has a “woman problem” due to their low numbers in cabinet.
Home secretary Priti Patel and pensions secretary Therese Coffey both kept their jobs. Anne-Marie Trevelyan was handed Truss’s former job as trade secretary.
Tory MP Caroline Nokes, chair of the women and equalities select committee, told Channel 4 News: “I’m really pleased to see more women going in to cabinet and I think that’s an important step.
“We’ve got two really strong women now in those two great offices of state - home office and foreign office.
“So that gives me a great deal of encouragement that the prime minister has listened to the calls that many of us made to increase the diversity in his cabinet.”
The reshuffle was expected to continue on Thursday. But for now, most government departments are led by men and dominated by men — and only a quarter of Conservative Party MPs are female, compared with the Labour Party, which now has more women MPs than men.
Allegra Stratton, the prime minister’s former press secretary, previously said Johnson regarded himself as a “feminist” and accepted “improvements” were needed with regard to female representation in his government.
Also during the reshuffle, cabinet ministers Gavin Williamson, Robert Buckland and Robert Jenrick all lost their jobs.