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George Osborne’s secret feminist

By Leisa Barnett

Chancellor of the Exchequer George Osborne revealed today that his 10-year-old daughter Liberty was furious with him about the lack of women on bank notes, until a successful public campaign forced the Bank of England to reverse the decision.

At a breakfast summit we attended for Women in the Workplace (and to coincide with the UK’s Equal Pay Day), the Chancellor told us: 'My 10-year-old berated me for a month as to why we weren’t going to put a woman on the bank notes.

'It was a difficult conversation to have with her, especially as the decision wasn’t mine to make.

'But thankfully Mark Carney [the new governor of the Bank of England] chose to do so, and I’m glad, because these things matter.'

It was announced in July that Jane Austen would replace Charles Dickens on the new £10 note.

'They might be small things, but they are powerful signals, especially to young girls like my 10-year-old daughter,' he added.

Speaking as he encouraged business leaders from the arts, science and FTSE 250 to address the gender pay gap (something we have been campaigning for), George Osborne also asked businesses to change their attitudes towards women.

Recalling when Facebook’s Sheryl Sandberg launched her book Lean In at Downing Street last year, he said: 'She made a compelling point about how her brothers were celebrated for their ambitions and achievements, yet she was criticised for exactly the same attributes.'

The Minister for Women and Equalities Maria Miller, urged all the business leaders at the Downing Street summit to sign up to Think, Act, Report – the government initiative to tackle the gender pay gap (that is still an unacceptable 19.7%) that ELLE is supporting – and added:

'The evidence is clear in economic terms – it makes sense to enable women to contribute fully in the workforce. Everyone accepts the economic case and we have reached a point where there can be no more excuses; it is simply not right that women’s skills are being overlooked.

'The Government is playing its part by introducing flexible working and shared parental leave, and providing a new tax break for childcare costs for working families, but we cannot act alone. That’s why I am calling on business leaders today to personally commit to help sweep away the barriers that stop women reaching their full potential.'

Read ELLE's rebranding feminism campaign: buy the November issue here

Find out more about ELLE's rebranding feminism campaign

Vagenda and W+K's #iamawomanand campaign

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