Here is the condensed content of today's speech to the Equal Opportunities Commission:
CREDIBILITY PROBLEM WITH GENDER INEQUALITY
"Clearly we have work to do. One cause of our reticence is a source of some strength as well as a source of weakness. We respect the private sphere. We have a reluctance to tell people and institutions - including our own party – what to do. We are not great at signing up to grandiloquent charters. We prefer practical measure. But this should mean that when we do make commitments, we really mean them – and will then go on to do what ever is necessary to deliver them."
MORE CONSERVATIVE WOMEN MP's
"I've put in place an action plan - the Priority List - which gives Conservative Associations the opportunity to select candidates from a pool of very talented people. Half of them will be women. Of course, in any individual selection process the best candidate may be a man. But, and this is the key point, it's just as likely to be a woman. This change in selection procedures is a huge exercise. All selections for Westminster seats have been stopped. All candidates have been made to reapply to the list. And if, after a few selections, we find that an unacceptably low proportion of selected candidates are women we will take further action. Unless we look and think like modern Britain that is far more difficult to achieve. I want the conversation within the Conservative party to be more like the conversation we should be having with the rest of the country."
"Fifteen years ago, 59 per cent of women of working age with dependent children were in paid employment. Today that figure has shot up to 68 per cent. And the group of women who are entering the workplace most rapidly are mothers of children up to age four. Society shouldn't try to direct women but to direct help to women where it's most needed. Before the last election we agreed with the Government's proposals for extending maternity leave. In addition we supported the idea of allowing mums to take the additional money but over a shorter time period. That is something we should consider again. Instead of imposing a choice on mothers, we should support the choices that mothers make for themselves. Mothers who work should not be made to feel guilty. Nor should mothers who stay at home.In addition we supported the idea of allowing mums to take the additional money but over a shorter time period. That is something we should consider again."
OSBORNE'S THREE PRINCIPLES FOR PARENTING POLICIES
"Providing financial support for the childcare choices that families themselves make; not using financial support as a stick to force parents into a particular choice. That means looking at whether we can expand the kinds of childcare supported by the childcare tax credit. Secondly, expanding the range of childcare choices available. That means ensuring the government does not seek a monopoly in the provision of childcare or nursery places and that voluntary and private providers are not crowded out. And third, realising that government has a role in protecting the careers of women who want to take time off to look after their children, particularly when they are just born."
FLEXIBLE WORKING PRACTICES
"One of the reasons that many women don't go back to work after having a baby is that flexibility isn't an option. 85 per cent of Microsoft's UK workforce works flexibly. As a result the company has better retention rates and higher morale than before. A hi-tech manufacturing firm in my constituency has introduced almost totally flexible hours, with employees told to work their 38 hour week on their terms. That’s good news for everyone but women are particularly happy about a system that recognises their responsibilities and meets their needs. The EOC’s own research suggests that a majority of managers are not yet comfortable with it. Our job is to help get the message out. We come in all shapes and sizes and we want the ability to mould our work ours to suit our family circumstances – not the other way round."
"Closing the pay gap must be at the heart of our commitment to end inequality. After thirty years of the Equal Pay Act, women’s pay is still nearly a fifth lower than men’s – and for women working part-time, the pay gap is around 40 per cent. We need to challenge the culture of secrecy about pay that holds sway in too many British workplaces. Transparency should be the norm, not the exception. And all of us need to change our cultural attitudes to pay by being much more open. In these areas – childcare, equal pay, flexibility – it’s not just that we have an obligation to help deliver equality, we will be failing our economy if we don’t.
"Many people don’t realise that the full state pension is not automatic. Women who take time out from working in order to bring up children or look after elderly relatives are placed at a severe disadvantage.Those who have made National Insurance contributions for less than 10 years don’t count. That’s almost one and a half million women excluded from pension entitlements. At the last election, David Willetts put forward some interesting ideas about allowing people who had taken career breaks to care for children or relatives to buy back lost years. He also suggested that the ten-year rule on contributions should be abolished."
"One in eight of the population is a carer. It’s estimated that carers save the Treasury £57 billion every year. 58 per cent of them are women, and 67 per cent of working age. Only 16 per cent are able to work full time, with work being totally out of the question for more than one million carers looking after someone for more than 50 hours per week. I help care for a severely disabled child – my son. It’s what I do at the start of each day. But I would not dare to call myself a carer. The work that full-time carers or those with little extra help do is unbelievable. Why is it, according to a recent Mencap survey, that only 22 per cent of the parents of severely disabled children get more than 2 hours help per week from the state? Why do only a fifth get any respite at all? Why is it that more than a quarter of the budget used to support carers is lost in "assessment and commissioning costs" instead of going to where it is needed most? So we should look at expanding direct payments, putting money in the hands of carers and those in need of care to provide for themselves. Helping carers is the best way to help those they are caring for."
“My personal belief in the importance of family is based on my own experience, yes. But it is also based on the answer to a very simple question. Which institution in our society does more than any other to care for the elderly, to look after the disabled, to bring up children with the right values, to pick up the pieces when things go wrong with drugs, alcohol, or mental health, and which institution does all of these things for free? It’s the family. In all the areas I have mentioned – pay, child care, pensions, flexibility and the gender balance of my own party – will our policies help to eradicate inequality and deliver fairness? And when it comes to the family: do our policies encourage families to come together and stay together and be that strong force at the heart of our society we all want to see? These are vital tests – and ones that I am determined to meet.”