I call the Minister for Women and Equalities, on her debut at the Dispatch Box in this capacity I think: Penny Mordaunt.
Thank you, Mr Speaker. I am delighted to be here in my new role as Minister for Women and Equalities on International Day against Homophobia, Transphobia and Biphobia, and I hope all Members of this House will show their support to that cause today.
The Government have committed in our careers strategy to improving information and guidance on STEM careers. We are also raising awareness of the range of careers that STEM qualifications offer.
I welcome the Minister to her new responsibilities and thank her for her commitment to women studying science and maths.
In Britain the percentage of women doing engineering is the worst in Europe: fewer than one in five of those studying physics A-level are female. I am going straight from here to the Institute of Physics. Will the Minister back up the Government’s words with action: break the deadlock and support prizes and grants for girls studying physics?
I will certainly do that. My hon. Friend can take that message very strongly to the meeting she is about to attend, and I thank her for the work she is doing to promote these careers and qualifications to girls. We fund the Stimulating Physics Network, which provides schools with the means to improve progression to physics A-level. The network provides activities specifically to increase the proportion of girls taking physics A-level.
Of all Ministers, this Minister will be the one who understands the opportunities for girls, particularly those following STEM subjects, in joining the armed forces. The RAF presentation team is coming to my constituency, and I have particularly focused on asking primary schools if they would like to see the opportunity that STEM subjects offer for careers in our armed forces: does she agree?
I agree so much that I signed up myself. I pay tribute to the armed forces for the work they have done in recent years, in particular the RAF, some of whose initiatives have been pioneering. I would like to see more women serving in our armed forces; our armed forces will be operationally better if that is the case.