Press release

Maria Miller: Women at the heart of growth: Economic reality not political correctness

£2 million to boost childcare and get more women working.

Women are at the heart of this country’s economic growth strategy, and we need to do everything possible to maximise their contribution to the workplace, Women and Equalities Minister Maria Miller will say today (Wednesday 14 November).  In a keynote speech, she will outline the very real contribution women are making to our economy, and set out what the Government is doing to get more women into work and help drive economic growth.

Although there are more women in work than ever before, there are still real barriers to women entering and progressing in work, which risks slowing the country’s economic recovery.  Mrs Miller will also stress the need to nurture and support the aspirations of women and girls.

The Women’s Minister will challenge the suggestion that the debate should be focused on boardrooms, making it clear that it is vital we also focus on everyday families and what women are doing to balance their financial needs and career aspirations with family life.

And on boardrooms, Mrs Miller will reject firmly the EU suggestion that mandated quotas are the solution.  She will highlight new figures which show that the voluntary approach is working - in the past six months women have made up 44 per cent of FTSE100 Board appointments. In addition Mrs Miller will reveal the progress on gender equality with the publication of progress on the Think, Act, Report initiative - which shows over one million workers are now covered by the gender equality scheme.

Mrs Miller said:

“Britain today is in a global economic race, and there’s so much more we need to do to make ourselves more competitive.  It makes no sense to stifle the achievement and aspiration of 50 per cent of our society.  It is absolutely essential that we maximise the contribution that women can make to our economy.  Not because of political correctness, but because of economic reality.  Now more than ever, we need to remove barriers to the workplace.

“The way to do this is not through special treatment or regulation like the European Commission’s quotas idea, which patronises women and undermines the business case. It is about removing the barriers to achieving their goals, and so that women are supported all the way from the shop floor to the boardroom. We are making real progress in driving transparency and equality in our workplaces and will continue to do even more.”

The Think, Act, Report initiative is part of the Government’s work to promote gender equality in the workplace.  A first annual progress report, published today, shows real progress in this area, with more than 50 leading organisations - including Deloitte, Marks and Spencer, and BT - already signed up.  That means that more than a million employees - 10 per cent of the eligible workforce - are now working for companies who support the gender equality scheme. This is driving real change by encouraging businesses to think about gender equality, take action to promote equal opportunities in their workplace and report on what they are doing.

Maria Miller added:

“By shining a light on the great work that many businesses are already doing here, we hope to encourage others to follow. More than 50 leading companies have already signed up to this approach.  And they are doing this not just because it’s the right thing to do, but because they have found that what is good for their employees is good for the bottom line.”

Also in her speech Maria Miller will announce a new £2 million scheme to boost childcare, get more women into work and help drive economic growth.  From April 2013 people who want to set up a nursery or a childminding business can access grants of up to £500 to help cover things like legal and insurance costs, health and safety training, equipment, and adaptations to premises. Specially tailored start-up advice and support, including mentoring, will also be available through the Government’s ‘Business In You’ scheme to help people get up to 6,000 new childcare businesses off the ground.

Mrs Miller said:

“There are more women in work than ever before and they are playing a vital role in our economic recovery. But good quality, affordable and reliable childcare is the key to even more women being able to work. More childcare options mean more women can take up jobs, help support their families and realise their own career ambitions.

“The childcare industry is already a major employer of women, and this scheme will provide huge opportunities for female entrepreneurs to start up and run their own businesses.  This is an injection of cash designed to stimulate the sector in tough times, the new scheme will provide more childcare places but will also help get up to 6,000 new childcare businesses off the ground.”

This comes on top of a package of measures that the Government is taking forward to boost childcare, including extending the right to request flexible working to all employees and allowing parents to share up to a year’s leave to care for their new born child. It comes ahead of the findings of the commission on childcare which is looking at the affordability and availability of childcare.

Notes to Editors

  1. Culture Secretary Maria Miller’s speech on women and equality issues.

  2. Grants will be available from April 2013 over the financial year 2013/14. Grants will be between £250 -£500 to support up to 6000 new childcare businesses based on £250 for individual child minders and £500 for larger collectives. £250 would in many cases cover the training, liability insurance, adaption to premises costs for a child minder. For larger businesses (more than 6 children), £500 could help pay for a deposit on a new premises.

  3. The scheme will apply to England only and is funded by savings from the Government Equalities Office budget.

  4. A total of 95,980 childcare providers are registered with Ofsted, 57,149 of these are childminders.

  5. Measures the Government have already taken on childcare include:• An additional £300 million will be invested into childcare support under Universal Credit - 80,000 more families will be eligible for this help. • We are introducing a new system of flexible parental leave so that fathers and mothers can share the childcare workload differently if they wish and extending childcare for those who work less than 16 hours a week.  • We are also extending the offer of 15 hours free education and care a week for disadvantaged two year olds, to cover an extra 130,000 children.• For parents on Working Tax Credit, the Government continues to provide support for 70% of childcare costs, up to a weekly limit of £175 for families with one child, and £300 for two or more children.  • And we are determined to do even more, which is why we have launched a commission on childcare to look at how to make it more affordable for working families.

  6. The Government is already doing a huge amount to support women to drive economic growth - all the way from the shop floor to the boardroom. This includes:• Cutting tax for over 23 million working people, lifting 2m out of income tax altogether. • Freezing Council Tax and ending the Fuel Duty Escalator.• Extending help with childcare for those who work less than 16 hours a week. • Increasing child tax credits for low to middle income families. • Extending the free entitlement to education and care to 130,000 of the most disadvantaged 2-year-olds. • Providing more good school places by radically reforming our education system and tackling failing schools. • Investing a record £7.5 billion ‘Fairness Premium’ on education. • Creating the biggest apprenticeships programme our country has ever seen. 

  7. The Think, Act, Report initiative was launched in September 2011 to improve transparency around gender equality issues in the private and voluntary sectors.  Over 50 leading companies have already signed up to this approach:  Find out more at: www.homeoffice.gov.uk/tar

  8. Government has a wide ranging programme of support for enterprise, including funding the recruitment and training of 15,000 new business mentors to support those setting up and growing their business. Those wanting to become a mentor should go to http://www.getmentoring.org/; those wanting to find a mentor should go to http://www.mentorsme.co.uk/.

  9. The Government is working to implement a voluntary, business-led approach to increase the number of women on corporate boards. We are supporting the work of Lord Davies which has resulted in an unprecedented increase in the number of women on boards. New figures from the Cranfield School of Management show the unprecedented progress in the number of women on corporate boards in the UK.  Women now represent 17.3% of FTSE100 Directors and 44% of FTSE100 Board appoints in the past six months.

  10. The ‘Business In You’ is a partnership between private enterprise and Government to highlight support for start-ups and growing businesses and encourage entrepreneurial spirit.  The campaign helps people to make their business idea happen and provides links to key business support tools, available from BusinessLink, StartUp Britain and a whole range of partners.

  11. The Women’s Business Council (WBC) was established by the Government and is an independent, one-year working group, with the sole aim of ensuring real action by Government, business and others to maximise women’s contribution to economic growth. The WBC will generate practical solutions. Emerging findings so far are focused around assisting women to set up childcare businesses successfully, culture change on flexible working, encouraging girls into STEM, supporting women of all ages to consider enterprise as a viable option. The WBC is also looking at the talent pipeline to senior positions which will help to get more women on boards in the longer term, as well as ensuring that all women can reach the positions they want to based on their merit.

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