A leaked government policy paper shows Downing Street fears the Coalition has significantly less support among women than men and that even Cabinet Office officials think the general tone of the Government could be perceived as sexist.
No 10 is looking at proposals to cut school summer holidays, ban all advertising to children and reconsider plans to criminalise forced marriage as part of attempts to win over women voters. The document suggests a series of new policies designed to win back female support, including:
* Introducing personal budgets for maternity services to allow women to shop around for the services;
* Front-loading child benefit to help parents with childcare and lost earnings in their children's early years;
* Setting up a website to allow women to anonymously disclose and compare salaries with others in their industry.
* Hosting a Downing Street summit for women in business.
* Criminalising forced marriage.
* Banning advertising which targets children.
The four-page document, marked "restricted – policy" was circulated across Government. It also includes proposals to put together a cross-government communications strategy to win women back. It admits: "We are clear that there are a range of policies we have pursued as a government which are seen as having hit women, or their interests, disproportionately."
"There are also areas where we have made bold statements or promises but haven't delivered enough – including, for example, our overarching claim that we would be 'the most family-friendly government ever' [and] specific undertakings to increase the representation of women on boards," it said.
On the economy, it says, the public perception is "now there's a real job to be done in sorting out the mess it can only be done by men".
The document reveals that the issue is already being discussed by women working at the centre of Government, who have noted a number of issues where the Coalition has fallen short.
"The group of Cabinet Office and No 10 women we assembled felt strongly that the general tone and messages of government communications, particularly around deficit reduction were an issue – with women, especially in the public sector feeling targeted."Reuse content