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Significantly more work to do to achieve true equality for women

3 min read

The Chair of the Women and Equalities Committee Maria Miller writes ahead of the Committee's debate in the House of Commons today to mark International Women's Day 2016.

Britain has come a long way in establishing equal rights for women since the first female Member of Parliament was elected in 1919. The right to work and to take on leadership roles has to be fundamental to the story of women’s equality.

Yet around the world the IMF has found that 90% of countries have legal restrictions based on gender that stop women having the same work opportunities as men. These restrictions put women at a disadvantage in securing the economic independence men enjoy. There is still an important role for international organisations to play in pressing for women's equality. This is just one piece of evidence to demonstrate the continuing importance of International Women’s Day in 2016.

Closer to home, in Britain more women than men have been graduating from our best universities for almost two decades and we have record numbers of women in work yet just 8% of those people responsible for running the country’s biggest companies are women. It may be 100 years on from women being forcibly removed from the House of Commons for demonstrating their support for the Suffrage movement but still less than one in three Parliamentarians elected are women.


Inspiring the next generation of women in construction


No one can be under any illusion that, despite the progress that has been made, there is significantly more work to do to achieve true equality for women in Britain today. It's clear that we need to see more women in positions of leadership in the UK to drive through that long overdue change. Lord Davies' work to significantly increase the number of female non-executive directors is to be applauded and has great symbolic importance. But if we want to drive corporate cultural change it is the executive team of corporate Britain who are in the driving seat. The British workplace was designed by men for men and still requires significant reform to properly support women to achieve their true potential. More reviews and Inquiries have their place but it is action from business itself that is long overdue given the pipeline of executive talent now available. Women are clear - they need more flexible jobs and more support to share caring responsibilities with their partners. Business should act to reflect the needs of its workforce or be prepared for Government to step in.

Last year, shortly after the General Election, Parliament agreed to establish the first ever Women and Equalities Select Committee to better scrutinise Government progress on all aspects of equality. I have the privilege to chair that committee. Gender equality is a key priority for every committee member and we will be working hard throughout this Parliament to ensure effective policies are in place to support gender equality in the UK. The first step we have taken is to hold an Inquiry on the Government's commitment to eliminate the Gender Pay Gap in a generation. Our report will be published later this month.

To mark International Women’s Day, Select Committee Member Mims Davies will be holding a debate on the floor of the House of Commons giving all Members of Parliament the opportunity to show their support.  

Maria Miller is the Conservative MP for Basingstoke

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