We are committed to breaking down the barriers that still exist to gender equality. Proper gender equality is not just important to build a fair society but it has economic benefits too - if women set up businesses at the same rate as men, there would be an extra 150,000 start-ups in the UK each year.

We are also taking action to bring an end to violence against women. Violence will not be accepted and we will not stop until it has been eradicated. We are focusing on challenging the attitudes and behaviour which foster violence against women and girls to prevent it from happening in the first place.

The bigger picture

Maria Miller• More and more of our leading businesses and charities are participating in 'Think, Act, Report' – a voluntary initiative dedicated to supporting women in the workplace and encouraging greater pay transparency.

• Between 2011 and 2012 the number of women on boards increased by its biggest ever reported percentage.

Increasing female representation in the top companies

Action to date

• In 2011 we commissioned Lord Davies to carry out a review into how to remove obstacles to allow women to reach board level positions. In the year following the publication of the Davies Report the number of women on boards reached unprecedented levels.

Planned actions

• The Davies Report recommended that FTSE 100 boards should aim for a minimum of 25 per cent female representation by 2015. A recent report from Cranfield School of Management found that, should current momentum be maintained, this target will be exceeded.

Reducing the Gender Pay Gap

Action to date

• We have launched the 'Think, Act, Report' framework which asks private and voluntary sector employers to help tackle the gender pay gap through greater transparency.

• We have consulted on proposals to give Employment Tribunals the power to impose pay audits on employers who are found to have discriminated because of gender in pay matters.

Planned actions

• We will give Employment Tribunals power to impose pay audits on employers who are found to have discriminated because of sex in contractual or non-contractual pay matters.

Encouraging female entrepreneurship

Action to date

• We are providing resources for 5,000 volunteer business mentors for women to give effective support to women who want to start or grow their own business.

• We are allocating £2 million to support female entrepreneurs in rural areas as part of the Rural Growth Network.

• In 2012 we launched a Women's Business Council to advise the Government on what can be done to maximise women’s contribution to future growth.

Planned actions

• The Women's Business Council will formulate recommendations which will help inform the Government's growth strategy, assist in the development and delivery of specific policies and programmes relevant to women, and support business to maximise women’s contribution. It will present its report to the Government in April 2013.

Flexible Parental Leave

Action to date

• We have consulted on shared parental leave so that parents can choose how best to share their caring responsibilities.

Planned actions

• We will publish details of how the new parental leave system will work by March 2013.

Tackling violence against women

Action to date

• We have launched a cross government strategy against violence against women.

• We have put the funding of rape crisis centres on long-term stable footing by providing £9.8 million per year.

• We have extended the definition of domestic violence to cover 16-18 year olds and to include coercive controlling behaviour.

• We have criminalised stalking and stalking where there is a fear of violence.

• We have consulted on the criminalisation forced marriage.

Planned actions

• We are currently piloting 'Clare’s law' scheme to test methods used by the police to help victims of domestic violence. We will consider the outcomes from the pilot very carefully before deciding on next steps.

• We hope to introduce new legislation to criminalised forced marriage in 2013/14.

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