“No country can truly develop if it locks out half its population,” Britain’s secretary of state for education and minister for women and equality said.
Businesses have to work “in partnership” with the government to make sure they do “best practice” in levelling the gender playing field, Justine Greening told an audience at the FT Women at the Top event in London.
“Getting more women participating in work is not just good for them, but critical for UK economy,” said Greening. “Businesses need to use their organisations, their networks, and client relationships” in ensuring greater gender equality at their companies.”
Greening was first elected as a Tory MP in the 2005 general election. She was then appointed economic secretary to the Treasury in 2010 and then became the secretary for State Transport in 2011. She was appointed secretary of state for education and minister for women and equality by Theresa May this year.
“[In my current role] I get to continue a lot of the things that drove me [in] my previous role in international development — improving the prospect of women and girls, I put that at the heart of the programme,” said Greening.
“It’s the right thing to do, and no country can truly develop if it locks out half its population. Today [Thursday] I saw an FT article on female role models and if you are my age, when I grew up in the 1980s, it was a decade of lots of amazing role models, like Margaret Thatcher. It was a decade of strong, powerful women and it inspired me. Now we are a generation to set the tone for the next generation.”
Greening said UK society does not just need to “mainstream gender equality” in business but we need to ask ourselves individually what we can do in each of the organisations we work for. She also urged representatives of big companies at the conference to publish gender diversity reports new pay gap regulations come into force in 2017.
“It will drive forward transparency,” said Greening.
Greening’s speech comes at the same time that the FT announced the launch of its FT 125 Women’s Forum, which is in partnership with some of the countries largest companies, such as pharmaceutical firm GSK, retailer Burberry, energy group National Grid, and tech firm BT.
The idea behind it is to “not just another talking shop where women talk to other women about their challenges they face,” but to target millennials mid-stage in their career and to be inclusive, not exclusive, of men, said Angela Mackay, Chair, FT Women at the Top and Member of the FT Group Board, at the Financial Times at the conference.
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