Women are still lagging behind when it comes to holding positions of power. Education Correspondent Shahid Naqvi spoke to the Government Minister determined to change that...
Despite the feminists and career women of the 80s, we still largely live in a man?s world.
Apart from a few notable exceptions ? such as Birmingham City Football Club chief executive Karren Brady in the Midlands ? the country?s highest positions are dominated by men.
What?s true in the UK, is even more the case in some of our European neighbours.
And in certain communities ? particularly areas dominated by ethnic minorities like Small Heath in Birmingham ? women face particular disadvantage.
A meeting in Birmingham this week aimed to take a step in changing all that.
It saw ?equality ministers? from all over Europe gather at the International Conference Centre to discuss how best close the gender gap.
Hosted by Culture, Media and Sports Secretary Tessa Jowell in her other role as Minister for Women, the meeting could have a vital impact in shaping policy throughout the continent ? particularly as Britain currently holds presidency of the EU.
As a political survivor within the notoriously maledominated world of Westminster, Ms Jowell is passionate about the need for change.
Speaking at South Birmingham College?s Cannon Hill Training & Education Centre in the heart of Balsall Heath, she said: ?There is a lot of injustice, particularly through the labour market segregation that arises from discrimination that could be reversed,? she said.
?In order to do that you need to encourage the schools to start early on in the lives of young women to open their eyes to the possibility of jobs and careers that might not have occurred to them.?
Ms Jowell said more needed to be done within the education system to break down stereotypes.
?The French Minister has been doing a lot of work to get young women to choose engineering and plumbing as a career,? she said.
?We do that a bit but we could do it more.?
Despite making up half the electorate and notwithstanding Margaret Thatcher?s rise to the top of the political ladder, women are still outnumbered five-to-one in the House of Commons.
Ms Jowell admits the corridors of power remain a misogynistic place in which sexism is rife.
?It is famously so,? she said. ?But you need to deal with things with a bit of a sense of humour and focus on what we need to achieve, not just for women in the House of Commons but the women we represent right across the country.
?One of the ways we can do that is to make sure we have a House of Commons which is properly represented. With 20 per cent women, which means 80 per cent are males, we are a long way from that.?
Despite the passing of the Equal Pay Act in 1970, for every #1 a man earns a women earns 82p.
?There is a gender pay gap,? said Ms Jowell.
?The reason for that are many and complex. But they start when women are not yet out of childhood.
?The kind of aspirations young women develop and the kind of courses they do at school. Whether they go on to higher and further education.
?What we find is women are overly-concentrated in those sectors of the labour market which are traditionally the lowest paid and underrepresented in high paid sectors.?