THERE'S been more debate recently about gender equality and women in the workplace.

There are now more women in work than ever before, so women make a significant contribution to the economy, but we do have to encourage women and girls so they can achieve their full potential. Last year, the Women’s Business Council reported on ways of encouraging women to get involved in business and to support them at four important stages during their careers. The Government published an Action Plan last November which builds on this.

Starting out focuses on supporting girls and women in education so that they optimise their career options. This includes encouraging STEM ambassadors – that’s mentors from Science, Technology, Engineering and Mathematics.

Getting on looks at ways of supporting women during the middle phase of their working lives. That involves things like looking at ways women can achieve their highest potential, through access to childcare or flexible working.

Staying on ensures that women continue to develop in senior roles throughout business and industry, by examining the balance between work and caring responsibilities and looking at ways of re-skilling. Enterprise is designed to encourage women to consider the possibility of starting up and running their own business. There is enormous potential for this and it could benefit our economy hugely.

One of the key areas in the report, Women and the Economy, by the Government Equalities Office, is the need for culture change within business and society as a whole so that we do not waste the undoubted talents that are there to help create a vibrant economy.