Looking to the future on International Women's Day

Last Thursday was International Women’s Day, which has been marked for over a century and serves as an important moment to look towards the future.

In many families today both parents are working, and rightly want to share the responsibility and joy of looking after a new child.

Shared Parental Leave recently introduced by the Government now enables men and women to balance work and care between them and also goes to tackle the gender pay gap. It allows mothers to return to work sooner if they wish to and fathers to take an active role in bringing up their child.

This initiative helps parents to balance a job with family life in a way that works best for them and their circumstances; benefiting employers at the same time who can retain talent in their workforce.

While unemployment is down by some 120,000 over the past year and has fallen by more than a million since 2010, I am fully aware there is more to do.

I want our students to take the opportunities afforded to us locally from some of the world-leading companies who operate in Crawley and the wider Gatwick Diamond area.

In particular, we need to address the under-representation of girls in STEM (Science, Technology, Engineering and Maths) subjects.

For example; as part of their Amy Johnson Flying Initiative which encourages more women to consider a career as a pilot, easyJet have announced a new partnership with Girlguiding UK to sponsor the first Aviation Badge for Brownies, which will help continue the progress which has seen the number of female new entrant co-pilots joining the company increase by 48 per cent last year.

This week the Duke of Cambridge visited a school, and when a young girl told him that she wants to be an engineer when she is older, our future king responded by saying that this was ‘music to my ears’.

Just last month, the Department for Education announced a new Advanced Maths Premium; schools will receive £600 for every additional pupil who takes a maths qualification post-GCSE.

Ensuring equality of these opportunities is a responsibility we have to our daughters and sons.

Henry Smith MP