In June I met many of my overseas counterparts at a global ministerial round table at the global summit of women held in Paris. This event brought together business, professional and governmental leaders to explore strategies and best practices in accelerating women’s economic progress worldwide. The most important task for the UK Government, as for the rest of the global community, is to build a stronger, fairer economy capable of delivering lasting prosperity. Women and girls are essential to the UK’s economic growth.
What was really interesting about going to the international summit—it was the same when I went to the Commonwealth summit in Bangladesh last year—was just how many of the same issues we share around the world in terms of enabling women to play their full part in economies. We talked about gender equality, parental leave, returners to work, supporting older workers, women’s access to finance and the importance of coaching, mentoring and role models in encouraging women to set up their own businesses.
Last week we had national women in engineering day. As the Minister says, only 7% of professional engineers in this country are women. What she did not say is that that is the lowest figure in Europe. In eastern European countries, the figure is 30% and countries such as China and India are far ahead of us. In her conversations, will she see what we can learn from other countries that are more successful?
When I speak to counterparts overseas, I always engage with the lessons Britain can share and what we can learn from other countries. I am proud to represent Loughborough university, which has, I am told, the highest number of female engineers in the country. I understand that last night the hon. Lady was at the Royal Academy of Engineering awards, where more than one half the rising stars awards went to female engineers. There is, however, more progress to be made.
We want young girls to achieve and to travel the world. Many young girls want to get into business and to travel. If they do not have science and maths as a basis for getting into business and getting good careers, they will not succeed.
I entirely agree with the hon. Gentleman. I assume that he supports the EBacc and that he welcomes the work of the Under-Secretary of State for Education, my hon. Friend the Member for South West Norfolk (Elizabeth Truss), who I think has done more than anyone else in recent years to triumph and to talk about the importance of all students, particularly girls, studying science and maths. [Interruption.] I am glad to hear the hon. Gentleman was there supporting her, too.