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When he became Leader of the Conservative Party David Cameron spoke of the need to end the ‘scandalous under-representation of women’. But in government his first ministerial reshuffle has failed to close the gender gap.
There are 122 ministerial jobs in total and, following the reshuffle, women now hold 22 posts – a rise of just one overall (or 18.2% of the Government). There has been a net decline in the number of women holding posts in the most senior ranks (Secretary of State and Minister of State level) and there are 9 government departments that remain ‘female free zones’. Research suggests the government’s economic and budget strategy is hitting women particularly hard so it’s increasingly worrying that the Treasury remains a department where there is no female voice at the decision-making table.
In 2009 David Cameron promised that, ‘if elected, by the end of our first Parliament I want a third of all my ministers to be female’. Half-way through the Parliament he has done little in this reshuffle to advance towards that goal. And with reshuffles an increasingly rare occurrence – as coalition government makes them more difficult to deliver – it looks increasingly likely that the Prime Minister will struggle to deliver on his promise in time for the next election.