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Here Come The Girls? Reshuffle Promotes Women MPs

The Cabinet has been reshuffled and there have been a lot of changes. William Hague, has left the Foreign Office and will soon leave elected politics altogether. Philip Hammond, a traditional right-winger, businessman and formerly Defence Secretary, has taken Mr Hague's place at the FCO. Michael Fallon has taken on the MOD after promotion from BIS. Mr Hammond is often described as a ‘safe pair of hands' although not as especially charismatic.

The biggest surprise is that Michael Gove has been moved from Education Secretary – a job he often said he loved passionately – to Chief Whip: less of a policy role and more of a campaigner. Mr Gove was often described within the party as one of the hardest working Cabinet members. The teachers are celebrating his departure, but he was effective in the role (and by goodness it was needed). Schools have been freed from local-authority control and tests have been toughened. Whatever your opinion of him, it can't be denied he has been driven by an underlying idea of how British education should be and has willingly taken on the NUT and other unions over it.

His replacement at DFE, Nicky Morgan, who only became an MP in 2010, is a mother of two, and although is seen as easier to get along with than Mr Gove on many matters, is known as a strong campaigner against same sex marriage and to some extent abortion.

Ms Morgan may prove a worthy successor, but she will have a lot of pressure from the party to continue the Goveian dream. Nicky Morgan's appointment will be designed to appeal both to working parents as well as traditionalists.

Also appointed are Liz Truss, one of the stars of the 2010 parliamentary intake, and Esther McVey, a former TV presenter, still in the employment slot who has been bumped up to the cabinet.

Bringing in these women now – however capable - is largely about meeting promises and heading off an attack from Labour. While in opposition, Mr Cameron said that a third of his cabinet ministers would be women by the end of the Parliament. These appointments take the figure to 29%.

What do we think about removing some effective MPs and replacing them with people who are untested. Should Mr Cameron put these women in because they are women? Positive discrimination is largely unlawful in the UK i.e. where you appoint someone because they have a particular protected characteristic (gender, age, race etc).

But where you have a group of employees (MPs aren't employees by the way) which is under-represented in the workplace, and you want to increase that group, you can take positive action to encourage people from that under-represented group to apply for jobs. This action should not exclude or discourage others without that protected characteristic from applying, so if you're recruiting and want to encourage more women to apply. You might advertise in a magazine principally read by women such as Cosmopolitan. You still need to advertise in all your traditional places to attract men too. Then you shortlist and select on the basis of the best for the job, not gender.

Over time, you build up a strong, skilful diverse workforce – and that's the aim of every right thinking employer.

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