Maria was born in 1964, is married to Iain, who is a solicitor, and has three children. She was born near Wolverhampton in the West Midlands and brought up in South Wales, where she attended Brynteg Comprehensive School, Bridgend.
Maria gained her degree in Economics at the London School of Economics, graduating in 1985. Maria has extensive business experience both in the UK and Europe, having been a company director for both a large multi-national advertising agency and a public relations agency. Prior to being elected, Maria worked as a marketing consultant. She has worked for both public and private sector organisations.
One of Maria’s main areas of interest is education. She has served as a school governor in four different schools over the past 20 years. This has enabled her to see first hand some of the real issues our education system faces.
Other interests include local environmental improvement. Maria has been an active member of local environmental schemes designed to clean up our towns and built up spaces.
Maria was selected as Parliamentary Spokesman for Basingstoke in May 2003. She is an active campaigner on local issues and appears regularly in the Basingstoke media. She is a regular speaker at meetings of local groups including business groups and over 55s.
Maria first joined the Conservative Party in 1983 and has held a number of posts at local level. In 2001, she was the Parliamentary Candidate for Wolverhampton North East, the constituency neighbouring where she was born.
Maria believes that we need a diverse mix of people with a wide range of skills in the House of Commons. Maria brings her experience as a working mother and in business to all aspects of her political work.
She believes that it is vital for our system of parliamentary democracy that politicians re-engage with all parts of the electorate. As part of this she is a regular visitor to schools and colleges in the Basingstoke area, discussing with students different aspects of the political process.
Maria was first elected as Member of Parliament in 2005, and re-elected in 2010 and 2015. In December 2005, she was appointed as a Shadow Minister for Education.
In November 2006, Maria was appointed Shadow Minister for Family Welfare, including the Child Support Agency. In 2007, Maria was appointed Shadow Minister for the Family.
In May 2010, Maria was appointed Parliamentary Under Secretary of State at the Department for Work and Pensions. In September 2012, Maria was appointed Secretary of State for Culture, Media and Sport and Minister for Women and Equality and she remained a cabinet minister until 2014.