This month we have seen Team GB competing at the Winter Olympics in Sochi. I was thrilled to see Lizzy Yarnold win our first gold medal of the games in the skeleton, and snowboarder Jenny Jones win Great Britain’s first ever Olympic medal on snow. Congratulations to both Lizzy and Jenny. Both will no doubt take pride in seeing their medal success inspire more girls to take up sport.
This year’s women’s engagement programme is well underway; I have held two roundtable meetings this month with women’s organisations. The first focussed on barriers to women’s progression across the equality strands, and I was pleased to meet with Disability Rights UK, MsUnderstood, QED, Gingerbread, the Muslim Women’s Network and Girl Guiding UK. The main focus of our discussion was on young women starting out in their careers and how we can inspire girls in their educational and career choices.
The second roundtable focussed on how we can ensure lasting partnerships between businesses and schools, to ensure that businesses are working with their local schools so that our girls are aware of the vast and varied career options available to them.
I have chosen to make raising girls aspirations a personal priority this year, and I look forward to working with you and others on how we can address this.
In February we also marked LGB&T History Month in the UK, celebrating the lives and achievements of the lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender (LGB&T) community - the theme this year was music. The Government is committed to advancing LGB&T equality and I am pleased that the first weddings of same sex couples will take from 29 March.
The government has also recently announced an extension to the childcare grants funding, with grants of up to £500 being offered to those want to start a childcare business. Thousands of people have already applied and we want many more to benefit and realise their ambitions of running their own childcare business.