By Joseph Willits
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In a speech at the Royal Commonwealth Club today, Theresa May announced plans to put women at the forefront of the Government's plans for economic growth. One of the measures proposed by May was to allow funding to recruit 5,000 female mentors to encourage more women to become entrepreneurs.
The Government, and society more generally, May said, has "for too long … been overlooking the skills, experience and talents of women." The central argument of her speech, was that both commitments to women, and to economic growth, go hand in hand. May said:
“Better use of women’s skills could be worth billions of pounds to our economy each year so that is why this government is opening up more opportunities. This support package will help those who want to start or grow their own business."
The drive to provide women with entrepreneurial opportunities was described by the Home Secretary as "real, practical help" and a new way of "boosting enterprise and growth".
According to May, the Government is also going to create a Women's Business Council to assist the Government in making policy decisions that once again link commitments to both women and economic growth.
May's announcement comes at a time when the Government has faced increased criticism for neglecting the needs of women, and failing to understand and address the political issues most central to them. Yesterday, research conducted by the Fawcett Society, warned that female unemployment, job, benefits and service cuts, meant that the “greatest risk" to women's "financial security in living memory” was emerging.
Perhaps most crucially, the newly founded Conservative Women’s Forum, made up of 37 of the 49 Tory female MPs, has signed a open letter urging the government to convey a better image to women, enforcing its dedication to female-friendly policies. Harriet Baldwin MP said:
“The Government is doing so much that is positive that it is just a question of us articulating the narrative, and we think we have got a role to play in doing that.”
Baldwin cited the example of the increase of the number of rape crisis centres, which the Government did not communicate effectively enough, as part of their appeal to women.
Earlier this week, the Conservative Women's Forum met with David Cameron at Downing Street. Another female Tory MP, Andrea Leadsom said:
“He [the Prime Minister] has taken a keen interest and is aware of the need not just to get the policy right but to express that in a way that will relate to women.”
It has been reported that two of Downing Street's favourite backbenchers, Matthew Hancock and Nick Boles, have been made members of the Conservative Women's Forum. This is bound to raise eyebrows among some of their fellow backbench colleagues.
Prior to making the speech, Anushka Asthana of the Times, who previously gave her suggestions of an all female cabinet, with May as PM, made reference on Twitter to May's celebrity status as a "Poli-celeb".