04 September 2012

The Cabinet Reshuffle: what does it mean for women?

Maria Miiller 

There are always big winners and losers in any government reshuffle, but it’s rare for both to be female. 

David Cameron’s big game of musical chairs is still unfolding, with many junior roles unfilled. But so far the fastest riser isn’t Jeremy Hunt, a surprise appointment as health secretary, after nearly losing his job amid the fallout from the phone hacking scandal: it's his successor as Culture Secretary, Maria Miller. And no, you’re not alone in never having heard of her. 

Miller, an ex-businesswoman and mother of three, will double up as Cabinet minister for equalities - meaning anything affecting women’s lives, from maternity leave to rape law reform, passes over her desk. So what should we expect?

It’s working parenthood that really drives Miller: as welfare minister she backed expanding flexible hours (so it needn’t just be mothers wanting to go part-time) and already leads a taskforce on cutting childcare bills. Expect that to be an early priority - especially with the MP Liz Truss, who has argued for scrapping regulations around nurseries and childminders to cut costs, becoming junior education minister. 

But whatever working women gain from this reshuffle, it won’t be role models. Three out of the five female Cabinet ministers (Cheryl Gillan, Caroline Spelman and Baroness Warsi) lost their jobs today and Justine Greening was demoted: promoting Miller and Theresa Villiers, the new Northern Ireland Secretary, while letting Warsi keep attending Cabinet meetings, can’t hide the backwards slide. Perhaps Miller’s toughest job is dragging some women up the ladder behind her. 

By Grazia's Political Editor at Large Gaby Hinsliff. Read her column bringing you the insider view on politics every week in Grazia.


Comments

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Annabel Morgan (Wed Sep 05 01:12:05 BST 2012): My education taught me that knowledge and knowing what to do with it was the most powerful thing, not gender, therefore I have always thought sexism to be irrelevant.