Penny Mordaunt to unveil Tory pitch to working-class women

Posted On: 
21st November 2018

Ministers need to "broaden out" their support for low-paid women, Penny Mordaunt will say today, as she sets out plans to change the focus of the Government's top equalities body.

The International Development Secretary has been tipped as a future Conservative leader.

In a speech in London, the International Development Secretary, who also heads up the Government Equalities Office, will announce that she is "shifting the focus" of the organisation away from issues like the gender pay gap and boardroom representation in favour of helping those on lower incomes.

In what will be seen as a rebuke to her predecessors in the job, a statement detailing the announcement said "low-paid, low-skilled" women had previously been "left out of the conversation" by the Government.

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Ms Mordaunt - who has been tipped as a future Tory leader - will tell the Bright Blue think tank: "It will be our mission to ensure that every woman in the UK has as much freedom, choice, capacity, resilience, support and protection, to do whatever she wants to do.

"To do that we need to broaden out the work of the Government Equalities Office to focus on women at every stage of their lives.

"I will be shifting the focus of the GEO’s work to look at how we can help women who are economically inactive, women in low paid and low skilled jobs and women on legacy benefits - trapped into limiting their hours or income, and women facing multiple barriers to being independent."

The International Development Secretary will sell the shift as part of the Government's plan to tackle "burning injustices" - first unveiled by Theresa May in her opening speech as Prime Minister.

Setting out the GEO's new focus, Ms Mordaunt will point to figures showing that around 1.8million women are left unable to work because of caring commitments - eight times higher than the figure for men.

Meanwhile, the Cabinet minister will say that women are three times more likely than men to work part-time and are "disproportionately" represented in lower-paid caring, customer service and cleaning jobs.

Ms Mordaunt will also highlight lower employment rates among some British communities, with 32.8% of Bangladeshi women currently in work compared to 73.3% of white British women.

The minister is expected to unveil a £600,000 pot of cash to help vulnerable women return to work if they have had to leave their job to care for others.

Meanwhile £100,000 of the fund will be earmarked for women facing "multiple barriers" stopping them returning to work, including limited English language skills.