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We need more top-placed women: PM
The Conservative Party, British business and the judiciary need to do more to get women into senior positions, David Cameron said.
The Prime Minister acknowledged that - despite the increase at the 2010 general election - there are "not nearly enough" female Tory MPs.
And he said it is not enough for institutions simply to allow women to compete for jobs, without taking action to overcome other barriers to female success.
He revealed that his wife, Samantha, has pressed him for action on the issue.
"My wife likes to say that if you don't have women in the top places, you are not just missing out on 50% of the talent, you are missing out on a lot more than 50% of the talent - and I think she probably has a point," he said.
During a visit to Unilever's headquarters in Mumbai, Mr Cameron was asked by a female employee if Britain had anything to teach India about opening up opportunities to women.
He replied: "We still have a long way to go. If you look at the top businesses in Britain, there still aren't nearly enough women in the boardroom.
"If you look at politics in Britain, there aren't nearly enough women around the Cabinet table.
"I think in every walk of life, whether the judiciary, politics or business, there is a lot further to go.
"My own view is it isn't enough just to open up and say we will treat everyone equally, when you are starting from such a position of disadvantage.
"Companies, political parties and other organisations need to actively go out and encourage women to join in, to sign up, to take the course, to become part of the endeavour.
"Just opening up and saying 'You're welcome to try if you want to' doesn't get over the fact that there have been all sorts of barriers in the way.
"In terms of my political party, before the last election we only had 19 women Members of Parliament. We have around 50 now.
"We have made a big change, but it is only 50 out of 300, so it's not nearly enough, so we need to do more."
Mr Cameron also had praise for Samantha's culinary skills, telling his Indian audience that she cooks a great curry.
He was asked which Indian dishes he hoped to sample while in the country, and replied: "I don't know how much time I'm going to get to eat here, but the last time I came I had some fantastic food, and two times ago I came here to Mumbai and had some particularly good food.
"I am a moderate cook. My wife is very good - she makes a fantastic Kerala fish curry. Sadly, I'm not going to Kerala this time - maybe next time - but I would like to have it as it's made in Kerala and see if it compares with my wife's."