Brentwood and Ongar MP Eric Pickles writes for the Weekly News.

"It is always a pleasure to hear from businesswomen in the constituency who write to invite me to events, or asking for assistance or advice on Government policies on business. It is very clear to me the vital role women play and those businesses led by women contribute billions to the economy.

"I strongly believe women deserve the right to pursue their goals and not feel they have to choose between a successful career or having children. That is why I am pleased the Government has taken strong action which will support women in business.

"It has extended the right to request flexible working to all employees and from April 2015 the new system of shared parental leave will mean that families have more choice about how they balance their work and caring commitments. retaining talented women in their workforce.

"I also support measures aimed are getting more talented women running more of our country’s great companies. There is a positive link between women in leadership and business performance and the increase of female directors in FTSE companies is encouraging.

"The drive for more women on boards is not simply about equal opportunity; there is a positive link between women in leadership and business performance. There continues to be real progress made with more women than ever before in the boardroom of the UK’s top companies and a growing recognition of the benefits gained by business, the economy and wider society.

"I am pleased the Government has also taken a range of steps to increase the number of women on boards. These include: a voluntary code of conduct for executive search firms; making amendments to the UK corporate governance code; changes to narrative reporting, and; the establishment of the Women’s Business Council.

"Businesses are clearly still striving to get the right mix of talent around the boardroom and it is important we do not lose that momentum. If the current pace of change is maintained we are on track to reach the target of 25 per cent of women on the boards of listed companies by 2015 which is key to ensuring the valuable contribution of women to boards for the long term sustainability of our economy."