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Minister for women and equalities Liz Truss spoke at the Women and Equalities Committee meeting today.
Minister for women and equalities Liz Truss told the Women and Equalities Committee today that she was not worried about the lack of representation of women politicians at Government daily briefings because she was against ‘tokenism’.
The only female member of Parliament to have spoken at the Government’s daily coronavirus briefings is Home Secretary Priti Patel, who has only appeared following speculation about why she hadn’t been seen much since lockdown.
Truss, who is also Secretary of State for International Trade, was asked if, given that she represented a large group of people – LGBTQ+ people, BAME people and those with disabilities as well as women – having her at the briefing mounted to more than tokenism. She replied that she felt “an excessive focus on being a woman does a disservice to women”.
Truss was also asked about the lack of representation of the Government Equalities Office on government committees – it is only represented on two committees. She said she saw its role as being to provide data and analysis to inform Government. She said she was interested in “mainstreaming” equalities work across Government and that she saw the GEO as a “central hub” for sharing data quickly, referring to the relationship as a “hub and spoke model”. She added that she was looking to hire more specialist data-gathering staff for the GEO.
Truss also said that she felt equality impact documents should be kept internal and be used to inform government and that publishing them had a “chilling effect”. “The more documents get published the more difficult it is for people to be frank,” she said.
In addition, Truss was asked about increases in the gender pay gap over the last year and she said she felt that was due to a “lag effect”. “It’s about change over time,” she stated. She said she felt it was mainly to do with job segregation and that getting more women into higher paid, high-tech jobs was the answer. Economic empowerment was going to be a focus of the GEO, said Truss. On the suspension of gender pay gap reporting as a result of the coronavirus, she said it was important not to put any additional burden on businesses. “The gender pay gap is important, but the most important thing is to keep the economy going,” she stated.
At the end of the session, Truss was asked about childcare. “Childcare is clearly an issue for people,” said Truss and spoke of the difficulties of juggling homeschooling and homeworking. She said the Department for Education was doing a good job of keeping schools open for key workers and vulnerable children and added that she was a proponent of schools offering more support to parents with regard to childcare.
She hoped that the pandemic would make the integration of family and work life more normalised and said childcare and workplaces needed to be more flexible and supportive. There was nothing specific mentioned about what the GEO might do on childcare, however.
She was then asked again about early years childcare and said the Department for Education was doing a lot and she would talk to them about it.