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Gender Pay Gap

Volume 600: debated on Thursday 15 October 2015

2. What steps she is taking to tackle the causes of the gender pay gap (a) in general and (b) in STEM careers. (901557)

I echo my hon. Friend’s welcome to the new shadow Ministers and I look forward to debates on these important issues.

The gender pay gap has fallen to its lowest ever level, but any gap at all is unacceptable, which is why the Prime Minister has pledged to eliminate the gap in a generation. Transparency is an important step in tackling the matter, which is why, within 100 days of the election, the Government have taken steps to fulfil their manifesto commitment by launching a consultation on legislation that will require companies to publish details of their gender pay gap. We must also tackle the causes themselves, by encouraging girls to consider a wide range of careers, including those in the science, technology, engineering and maths fields, and by transforming our workplaces.

I thank the Minister for her answer. The overall pay gap of 2014 stands at 19.1%. Does she agree that more needs to be done to help full-time carers and full-time parents who decide to re-enter the workplace so that we can reduce the pay gap?

I entirely agree with my hon. Friend. Interestingly, the gender pay gap in her own constituency is 14.3%, which is below the national average. Of course we must help more parents to get back into the workplace. I am very clear that childcare is not just a women’s issue, but a parents’ issue, which is why we are introducing flexible working, shared parental leave and more free childcare. We are also tackling the barriers that affect carers, which is why we launched nine pilots across England to test different approaches to supporting female carers to remain in work.

The Minister knows well that girls who give up STEM subjects early on do not get into good management jobs later on. Is it not important to measure how many women are getting into senior positions, particularly in the private sector?

I entirely agree with the hon. Gentleman. That is why transparency is so important and why the regulations that we propose will cover the private sector. He is right in what he says. Women form 47% of the workforce, but make up only 34% of managers, directors and senior officials. This must be the time to make the change.

I applaud the Minister and the Government for their commitment to eliminate the gender pay gap. This generation of women over 50 working full time earn just two thirds of what men of the same age earn. What specific policies do this Government have to address that particular enduring pay gap?

I thank the Chairman of the Women and Equalities Committee for her question. She will know from her time in government that one of the Women’s Business Council’s key strands of work involves helping older workers to stay in work. This is, of course, also about helping women to stay in work for a longer period and to get as high up in their careers as possible before they take time out for caring responsibilities. I have also mentioned the carers pilots because, sadly, even in the 21st century, the burden of caring for older relatives still often falls on women. We have to change that.

A recent report by the Campaign for Science and Engineering found that when parents were asked what type of job they want their child to pursue when they finish education there was a clear gender bias, with parents wanting for their son a career in engineering and for their daughter a career in nursing. Does the Minister agree that it is crucial that we break down those barriers?

I entirely agree with my hon. Friend. It is good to see, for example, that maths is now the most popular A-level, and we have more girls studying STEM subjects at both GCSE and A-level. Women are concentrated in the less well-paid occupations, making up 92% of secretaries and 94% of childcare assistants but only 7% of engineers and 20% of architects. Again, that has to change.