Thank you Mr Speaker.
My constituency of Derby North has often led the way when it comes to industry, manufacturing and business and, once again, our city has shown that it is ahead of the curve when it comes to addressing inequality.
I do share the concerns of the party opposite that we are still talking about a gender pay gap in 2015, but I know that this Government has made huge strides to decrease the gap across the country.
In fact, in my own constituency of Derby North, there is a disparity of 9.1% in the other direction, that is, women are paid 9.1% more on average than men.
I am proud of the advances that my city has made when it comes to promoting women in the workplace. I’m also rather proud of the advances that it made when it elected me as its first female MP.
I would urge Honourable and Right Honourable members on all sides of the house to visit Derby and see just how we do it!
On a national level, the government has made some good steps towards reducing the Gender Pay Gap, though we still need to do more and I am very supportive of the action taken so far to maximise women's contribution to economic growth and to address this disparity.
I am sure that nobody on this side of the house is talking about positive discrimination, as Conservatives the basis of many of our beliefs is the equality of opportunity for all and, as a woman, I believe that we should be promoted and selected on our merit. I also believe, as I always have, that we should have equal pay for equal roles and equal opportunities for all.
This kind of equality in the workplace is vital, and I’m passionate that everyone should have access to a fair and flexible labour market that draws on individual talents, skills and experience.
In order to achieve this we need to be working on increasing the confidence of all of young people, but especially that of young women who should be encouraged at an early age to have high expectations for equal pay and high expectations for their achievements in the work force.
Campaigns like the “This Girl Can” campaign have done a fantastic job of boosting the morale of young females in particular, and should go some way to changing societal attitudes to girls and young women taking part in typically male-dominated activities like football, boxing and engineering.
On engineering, it’s very telling that women make up 92% of secretaries and only 7% of engineers.
That fact alone raises a whole host of questions that we don’t have enough time to discuss today, but that could, I’m sure, form the basis of some of the work of my Rt. Hon. Friend the member for Basingstoke in leading her committee on Women and Equalities.
Encouraging girls into STEM careers is vital to our long-term future as a country.
To fully address gender-based pay differences, we need to encourage more women into these male dominated professions. At the moment, women make up only 20 per cent of architects and 18 per cent of actuaries and statisticians.
Schemes like the “Your life” program aim to double the proportion of technology degrees that are taken by women to 30 per cent by 2030, and they have my full support.
Derby’s rich engineering heritage means that the £10m investment to the ‘Developing Women Engineers’ program will be very welcome indeed.
Boosting local engineering in any way that we can is one of the best ways to improve our local economy and create jobs and skills. It’s so important that women play a key role in the engineering future of our city, so I thank the Secretary of State for her support with this issue.
Increasing transparency is very important in this debate. I know that the Secretary of State is bringing forward changes which will mean companies with more than 250 employees will be required to publish information showing whether there are differences in the pay of men and women.
A very helpful tool for employers is the free online software that is now available to all companies, helping them to calculate their own gender pay gap.
Women in business play a vital role.
Through my own background in business, it became very clear that men are still leading the way. I was amazed to learn that there are more men called John leading the UK’s biggest companies than there are women? Although the Government has done great work so far, we can’t afford to rest on our laurels.
I am conscious that there are many members who wish to contribute to this debate, Mr Speaker so, to sum up, I am proud of this Government’s record on equality, which boasts:
· More women in work than ever before...
· More women-led businesses than ever before...
· A woman on the board of every FTSE 100 company
· A gender pay gap that is now the lowest on record.