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Women's Business Council

Volume 563: debated on Tuesday 4 June 2013

The Women’s Business Council was set up in 2012 to advise Government on how women’s contribution to economic growth could be optimised. I am delighted that they have today published their findings. I would like to thank each of them for their hard work and for the constructive approach they have taken.

The Council’s report clearly demonstrates the importance of ensuring that women are fully able to contribute to the economy of this country. We cannot afford to ignore the additional contribution that women could make, if the barriers to their full participation in the economy could be resolved. This is not just an equality issue; it is a very important economic issue.

The Council has made a series of recommendations for action, by Government and by business, focusing on areas where the economic case for action is clearest.

The Government welcome the recommendations. I am pleased that in many cases the recommendations for Government endorse the Government’s current approach, while suggesting ways to go further.

I can announce today that I will be chairing a ministerial taskforce to drive forward the implementation of these. The taskforce will have a clear focus on economic growth, with Ministers from all the relevant Departments. The taskforce will have its first meeting shortly and will publish a detailed action plan in the autumn.

In the meantime, I am publishing today the Government’s initial response to the council’s recommendations, which details a series of early actions which will start to make a real difference to women’s lives, in each of the four key areas identified for action by the council. These measures will:

broaden girls’ aspirations and help inform their choices at the start of their careers, including encouraging more girls to study science, technology, engineering and maths, and to consider jobs in these areas;

help business culture embrace the benefits of flexible working and support working parents in the second part of their working lives;

ensure that women in the third part of their working lives can utilise their skills and fully contribute to economic growth; and

ensure that women are better supported to set up their own businesses.