Government Equalities Office


The Government Equalities Office (GEO) is the unit of the British government with responsibility for social equality. The office has lead responsibility for gender equality within the UK government, together with a responsibility to provide advice on all other forms of equality (including age, race, sexual orientation and disability) to other UK government departments. The unit is based at the Cabinet Office. Prior to April 2019, the GEO was led concurrently by Cabinet Secretaries at the Home Office, DFID and DfE. The day-to-day responsibility for policy on these issues was not transferred to GEO when it was created. The Equalities Office currently leads the Discrimination Law Review, which developed the Equality Act 2010 that replaced previous anti-discrimination legislation.

Department overview
FormedOctober 2007
JurisdictionEngland
HeadquartersLondon, England
Annual budget£65 million in 2011-12[1]
Minister responsible
  • The Rt Hon. Liz Truss MP,
    Minister for Women and Equalities
Parent departmentCabinet Office
Websitegov.uk/government/organisations/government-equalities-office

Ministers


The Government Equalities Office Ministers are as follows:[2]

Minister Rank Portfolio
The Rt Hon Liz Truss MP Minister for Women and Equalities (also Secretary of State for International Trade) Overall responsibility for the Government Equalities Office, policy on women, policy on sexual orientation and transgender equality, cross-government equality strategy and legislation [3]
The Rt Hon Baroness Berridge of the Vale of Catmose Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State for Women
(jointly with the Department for Education)
Overall responsibility for policy on gender equality
Kemi Badenoch MP Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State for Equalities
(jointly with HM Treasury)
Overall responsibility for policy on sexual orientation and transgender equality. Cross government equality strategy and legislation.

Budget


The budget for the Equalities Office reached £76 million in 2010-11. Following the spending review this is set to decrease each year, to £47.1 million in 2014-15.[4]

Governance


The GEO has had different forms over the years since its creation. It was created in October 2007 when the Women and Equality Unit, based within the Department for Communities and Local Government was converted into an independent department. Since that time it has had various ministerial sponsors and has been housed within several ministerial departments:

Dates Cabinet Minister Unit status
October 2007–May 2010 Harriet Harman Independent department
May 2010–September 2012 Theresa May Home Office
September 2012–April 2014 Maria Miller Department for Culture, Media & Sport
April–July 2014 Nicky Morgan (for women)

Sajid Javid (for equalities)

July 2014–July 2016 Nicky Morgan Department for Education
July 2016–January 2018 Justine Greening
January–April 2018 Amber Rudd Home Office
April 2018–April 2019 Penny Mordaunt Department for International Development
April 2019–September 2019 Cabinet Office
July–September 2019 Amber Rudd
September 2019 – present Liz Truss

In November 2018, the GEO announced that the unit would move to be part of the Cabinet Office in April 2019.[5]

The GEO's current director as of November 2018 is Hilary Spencer.

Controversies


In June 2011 it emerged that female staff at the Equalities Office received 7.7% more pay than males on average. The information came to light following a Freedom of Information request by MP Dominic Raab. The enquiry also revealed that almost two thirds of the department's 107 staff were female. Raab criticised the department for double standards, stating "It undermines the credibility of the equality and diversity agenda, if bureaucrats at the government equalities office are preaching about unequal representation and the pay gap, whilst practising reverse".[6] The differences between the genders became marked from 2008 under the leadership of Harriet Harman with the pay gap almost doubling from that time and six out of seven new jobs going to women.[citation needed]

In an interview about her role, director Hilary Spencer said:

I offer one-off career chats to people, including many women, who are trying to work out whether they can make the leap to the senior civil service and whether that’s compatible with family life. Interestingly, I have very few conversations with men who wonder whether getting to Deputy Director is compatible with family life. There is still a point when women have children where they tend to take the brunt of the childcare and responsibilities.[7]

References