Lib Dem equalities minister Jo Swinson says 'very British' reluctance to talk about pay can hold women back at work
Women should ask their male colleagues how much they earn if they want to get equal pay, Jo Swinson, the equalities minister, has said.
The senior Liberal Democrat said a "very British" reluctance to talk about pay could hold women back from getting pay rises.
Speaking to Elle magazine as part of its campaign for equal pay, Swinson said many women did not realise they were being paid less than their male counterparts.
"One of the things I think is brilliant about your campaign is encouraging people to open up about their pay," she told the magazine.
"I think sometimes there's something very British in our culture where we don't talk about money, and I think that holds women back. If they realised they were earning significantly less than male colleagues at a similar level, that might be the catalyst they need to ask for a pay rise."
Swinson said the government might have to impose "equal pay audits" on companies if it did not see improvement in the gap between what men and women earn.
The minister said she would "absolutely" call herself a feminist without hesitation, just days after David Cameron, the prime minister, said he did not know whether he was. Several days later, Cameron corrected himself, saying he was a feminist if it meant "equal rights for women".
Swinson said she was "sad when you hear people don't want to call themselves a feminist, whether they're a bloke or a teenage girl, who thinks the word has negative connotations".
She added: "We should be encouraging people to be happy to declare themselves as feminists. And I think in some sections of the media there is a tendency to associate feminism with bra-burning extremism. But it's about very mainstream views about women's role in society.
"We need to be very clear about claiming that word as something positive and I think that the new momentum behind a lot of feminist campaigns is exciting and is showing that there are still a lot of issues where we haven't solved it.
"It's not about hating men; this is about creating a society where men and women working together can achieve more, rather than being pitted against each other in stereotypical archaic roles."
The Elle campaign is designed to highlight the 17.4% pay gap between men and women. It urges female workers to ask male colleagues what they earn if they do the same job.