News story

Business leaders urged to ensure women can fully contribute to economic growth

Maria Miller and George Osborne tell top businesses they need to do more for gender equality in the workplace.

Improving opportunities for women to contribute in the workplace is key to good business and there can be no more excuses for not removing barriers to success, Equalities Minister Maria Miller told an audience of city business leaders this morning.

The breakfast summit hosted at 11 Downing Street by Maria Miller and the Chancellor, George Osborne which coincides with the UK’s Equal Pay Day, was attended by business leaders including those from the FTSE 250. Maria Miller said that women are vital to the success of a business and to the competitiveness of the UK, and that underutilising them makes no economic sense.

Minister for Women and Equalities Maria Miller said:

It is simply not right that women’s skills are being overlooked. As we continue the economic recovery we cannot afford to ignore the huge additional contribution that women could make.

The government is playing its part by introducing flexible working and shared parental leave, and providing a new tax break for childcare costs for working families, but we cannot act alone. That’s why I am calling on business leaders today to personally commit to help sweep away the barriers that stop women reaching their full potential.

Chancellor George Osborne said:

Backing women has, and will always be, at the heart of the government’s approach to economic growth. We’re introducing better flexible working; we’ve recently announced £1 million to help tackle pregnancy discrimination in the workplace; we set up the Women’s Business Council; and Tax-Free Childcare will help working families with the cost of childcare across the country.

Women are vital to the success of UK businesses. But as we continue down the road to economic recovery, there is still more to do. Harnessing the talent of woman in the workplace today will ensure that UK businesses reap the benefits of this in the future. Forward thinking businesses know this and are already ahead of the game in taking action and recognising the business benefits. It’s time others joined them.

During the meeting Maria Miller set down 3 challenges for business:

  1. Be more transparent and help develop women to progress through the management chain, by signing up to Think, Act, Report

  2. CEOs should commit to greater personal leadership and engagement to drive forward change, for example by setting up women’s networks or sponsoring talented women within the organisation

  3. Help supply chains understand the benefits of diversity in their workforces

Other speakers who addressed the audience included Karren Brady, Vice-Chairman of West Ham United; Grenville Turner, Group Chief Executive of Countrywide PLC and John Cridland, Director General of the CBI.

Women and the Economy – Government Action Plan

The government has also published its action plan in response to June’s Women’s Business Council report. The new plan’s ambitions are focused on:

  • Improved guidance on careers which will include raising aspirations and challenging stereotypes

  • Help for parents to ensure their children make well-informed career and subject choices

  • A new drive on science, technology and engineering, building on “Tomorrow’s Engineers week” which is taking place this week

  • Support for those with caring responsibilities to stay in work where they wish or to set up their own small business

  • A new business champion for older workers

New research was also published today by Cranfield University, highlighting that only 18% of FTSE 250 companies have a clear policy on board room diversity (compared to 65% for FTSE 100 firms).

Further information

Help us improve GOV.UK

Please don't include any personal or financial information, for example your National Insurance or credit card numbers.