Government Equalities Office shifts to heart of government

Minister for Women and Equalities Penny Mordaunt today announced a fundamental shift in focus for the Government Equalities Office (GEO), which will include putting marginalised women at the heart of its work on gender.

House of Commons with people
In a speech today at the independent conservative think-tank Bright Blue’s Women in Work conference, Minister for Women and Equalities Penny Penny Mordaunt set out how the Government Equalities Office is working to close the gender pay gap, get women into work and more women on boards in top companies. As part of Ms Mordaunt’s drive to put equalities at the heart of the government’s work, she also announced that the GEO will move to a permanent home in the Cabinet Office from 1 April 2019. This relocation, the government anticipates, will enable the GEO to have even more influence and leverage within government, working with the Race Disparity Unit, and the Office of Disability Issues, and others, to drive meaningful progress on equalities."I want to give the Government Equalities Office not just a new home, but a permanent home, and most importantly at the centre of government," Ms Mordaunt told delegates at the Women at Work conference."That’s why I’m delighted that it’ll be in the Cabinet Office, from April, alongside the Race Disparity Unit. From there it will become an equalities hub, and provide some much-needed clout behind those working to ensure all our citizens have what they need to thrive."

'Burning injustices' for women in the UK

Echoing Theresa May in her first statement as Prime Minister and the commitment to tackling “burning injustices,” Ms Mordaunt further announced new funding to include low-paid, low-skilled women who are often left out of the national gender pay conversations.  Ms Mordaunt highlighted that in the UK today:
  • Around 1.8 million women are currently economically inactive because they are caring for their home or family, more than 8 times the number of men in that position
  • Women are disproportionately more likely to work in caring, customer service and cleaning roles, which tend to be less well paid, and three times more likely than men to work part-time
  • Nine out of 10 potential returners to work in the UK are women. Nearly a third of all those women who could potentially return to work have GCSEs as their highest qualification, and 16% have no qualifications at all
  • White women have an employment rate of 73.3%, and women of Bangladeshi ethnicity have an employment rate of 32.8%
  • The gender pay gap increases from over 6% for those in their twenties, to around 23% for those in their forties. McKinsey estimate that bridging gender gaps in work could add £150 billion to the UK economy by 2025

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Government Equalities Offices moves to the Cabinet Office

Ms Mordaunt said: “It should be the GEO mission to ensure that every woman in the UK has as much freedom and choice and capacity and resilience, and support and protection to do whatever she wants to do. So, you will see a broadening in our work, as well as a new address.“And today I am announcing that the next phase of our returners programme – £500,000 of funding to support people to return to work when they are ready to do so, will be focusing on those with additional barriers to participating in the labour market – including people who speak little English, people with disabilities, and those who are homeless or have been victims of domestic abuse."She also announced an additional £100,000 for bespoke support “for very marginalised women some of who have little or no work history in particular parts of the country.”

Women's geographic mobility and the gender pay gap

Responding to the announcements, co-working-meets-creche start-up Cuckooz Nest highlighted commuting as a further barrier for women and economic opportunities.  Citing ONS research, the London-based hybrid workspace found that men travel longer distances to work. It suggests that women opting to travel shorter distances, and therefore to remain closer to home, reflects that mothers still take the greatest share of parental responsibility for looking after family members and children, which therefore has an impact on pay and progression.“Much debate on the gender pay gap has been had in recent times and this in itself is a fundamental problem of inequality that companies big and small must tackle,” says Cuckooz Nest Co-Founder (and mum), Charlie Rosier.“But our analysis of the ONS data relating to the ‘Gender Commute’ starts to indicate why there is such a disparity in the pay of men vs women in that if it’s left almost entirely to the responsibility of the mum to look after the logistics of childcare, no wonder such limits on the geography of workplace choice result in women getting the rough end of the pay scale.”Read more about equality, inclusion and diversity in Relocate's HR section. Join our Think People Global Communities. 
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