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Gender Bias: Employment

Volume 663: debated on Thursday 11 July 2019

4. Which employment sectors are most gender-biased against (a) women and (b) men; and if she will take steps to tackle those biases. (911874)

My hon. Friend has asked a deviously difficult question, in that there are many ways to interpret it. I have taken it to reflect the gender split in sectors. The worst sectors in terms of the gender split for women are construction; mining and quarrying; and water supply, sewerage and waste management. All those sectors have workforces that are more than 80% men. The worst sectors in terms of the gender split for men are education, human health and social work. We are working with all those sectors to drive action plans to address the specific problems that men and women face, whether in recruitment, retention, or progression to senior leadership roles, in those sectors.

Brilliant though the Minister is, she cannot be expected, any more than any of us can, to know the inner workings of the sophisticated mind of the hon. Member for Kettering (Mr Hollobone).

There is a highly disproportionately low number of male primary school teachers. What can the Government do to address this?

My hon. Friend asks a good question. There is interesting research on what and how gender stereotypes form at early ages. By the age of seven, girls tend to think that they should be in what we call very loosely the caring industries, and boys tend to think about the mechanical and engineering-type industries. So it starts at the very beginning. We have to work on, and we are working on, ensuring that the gender stereotypes for boys and girls are not allowed to continue. That is precisely why the gender equality road map that we published last week will help with those limiting and limited stereotypes. We must very much encourage boys to grow, and to be great teachers in our schools and colleges.

I am sure the Minister would agree that in the care sector—where my mother has worked for the past 30 years—the focus tends to be purely on women working in that sector, often because it is part-time and low-paid work. What more will the Minister do to make sure that the care sector is seen as a real profession, with good qualifications and a decent salary?

The care sector is such an important sector in our economy—all the more so as we age and live for longer—so through the gender equality road map we are very much looking into how we can help to ensure that the part-time roles are paid properly, and also that there are career opportunities. A tiny step is, of course, the gender pay gap regulation reporting, which helps to set out the disparities between pay, not only within industries and sectors but across the economy. It is through that that we will start to get much better quality.

Only 1% of the tradespeople who work in building maintenance in housing associations are female, so will my hon. Friend endorse the work of the Guinness Partnership and its ambassador tradeswomen who are trying to drive up that figure by going into schools and colleges, encouraging women to pursue a career in construction?

I endorse not only the work of the Guinness Partnership, but the work of my hon. Friend, who is a powerhouse himself for trying to ensure that women and girls see construction as a really good industry and a really good employment opportunity for them.