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Boris Johnson pledges to help women reach "full potential" at work

With two weeks to election day and the latest polls placing the Conservatives out in front, Boris Johnson vows to support women in politics and the workplace

Boris Johnson has pledged to "support women to reach their full potential" in politics and the workplace if the Conservatives win the general election.

He will also announce the "biggest drive" to recruit female Tory activists, members and candidates.

On the 100th anniversary of the first female MP Nancy Astor taking her seat in parliament, the PM will pledge to make 50% of future Tory candidates women.

The prime minister will say today: "When Nancy Astor entered parliament 100 years ago, she was a trailblazer, ripping up the conventions that held women back from joining the workplace.

"A Conservative majority government will support women to reach their full potential – be that in the workplace, by opening up new opportunities to work flexibly or start their own business, or through our work internationally to make sure all young women get 12 years of education."

In this election, just 30% of Conservative Party candidates are women compared with 53% of Labour candidates.

As well as creating an equal gender split in the party, the Conservatives have said they want to encourage flexible working, review how to better support self-employed workers, and protect women returning from maternity leave by reforming redundancy law.

However, Labour has hit back by criticising the Johnson's attitude towards women, highlighting "sexist" remarks he has made in the past.

The party's research team has uncovered articles written by Johnson for The Spectator, where he made disparaging comments about single mothers and unmarried women. Archives reveal that he had described the children of single mothers as 'ill-raised, ignorant, aggressive and illegitimate children who in theory will be paying for our pensions'.

Hephzi Pemberton, CEO and founder of The Equality Group, welcomed the pledge but raised concerns about Johnson's views on gender equality.

“In isolation, these comments are encouraging and any promotion of greater gender equality in parliament is welcomed. However, the prime minister’s track record on comments towards women are not good and more needs to be done at every level in society to stamp out sexism, particularly by men in prominent, powerful positions," she told HR magazine.

"Political parties need to reflect on their own history and make amends for mistakes in the past and now lead by example. Women MPs are great role models and help tackle many other issues we face in wider society, so it will be interesting to see the make-up of parliament come 12 December.”

Wanda Wyporska, director of the Equality Trust, told HR magazine that Johnson's comments lack details of how he plans to help women from all backgrounds unlock their potential in the workplace.

"Anyone who is serious about unlocking women's potential will have no shortage of options for real action, rather than words. For example, a government could commit to eradicating unequal pay and legislate for action plans to close gender pay and bonus gaps," she said.

Wyporska pointed to various ways the government could put this pledge into action: "It could also reform childcare, social care and carer's support and allowances to recognise how valuable a job caring is. It could replace the minimum wage with the real Living Wage and reform the welfare system, as well as ensuring that public services are properly funded. Unlocking women's potential isnot just about getting women on boards, but about providing the basic conditions for women to live and thrive."

The news came as the latest YouGov poll revealed that the Conservative party is currently taking a 19-point lead over Labour with 47% of the vote.