Skip to main content

Women in Business

Volume 611: debated on Thursday 26 May 2016

We are absolutely committed to supporting women in business. I am delighted that Britain has been named the best place in Europe for female entrepreneurs. We have invested £2.2 million in our women and broadband programme, enabling them to take advantage of technology to start or grow their business. We have also run 19 nationwide “meet a mentor” sessions to provide help, support and encouragement for female entrepreneurs.

I am grateful for that answer. Wimborne Women in Business are fearless in promoting their own businesses locally, but broadband speeds in parts of Dorset remain frustratingly slow. What more can the Minister do to engage in this subject and ensure that women in business in Mid Dorset and North Poole have access to adequate broadband speeds?

We are working very hard to ensure that 95% of UK homes and businesses get access to superfast broadband. Coverage in Dorset will continue to improve during 2017 through a Government and local enterprise partnership-funded ultra-fast programme, which I hope Wimborne Women in Business will appreciate. Through the Dorset Go Digital women and broadband programme, we have supported almost 100 women in the past six months alone to take advantage of this and develop the digital skills they need to start or grow their business.

Does the Minister agree that if there were more women at senior levels in business, we might have fewer advertising campaigns such as that by Calvin Klein, featuring overtly sexualised images of young women, including what are known as “upskirt” shots? Will she join me in urging Calvin Klein and similar organisations not only to be more responsible in their advertising, but to donate some of the profits they have made to charities that are solving rather worsening the problems women face in society?

The hon. Lady is absolutely right to point out this sort of irresponsible advertising, and I recently met the advertising industry to discuss the issue. She is also right to say that we need more women on boards. Currently, 26% of the people sitting on FTSE 100 boards are women—more than ever before. This is an issue on which we will continue to work—on boards, but in the executive pipeline as well.