Help make girls more confident, says first woman bishop to speak in House of Lords

Bishop Rachel Treweek shortly before delivering her maiden speech as the first woman bishop ever to speak in the House of Lords

The Bishop of Gloucester yesterday used her maiden speech as the first woman bishop ever to speak in the House of Lords to raise concerns about the loss of confidence among young people, especially girls.

Speaking hours before International Women's Day, Rt Rev Rachel Treweek pledged to support the work and campaigns of those who seek to engage with the unequal treatment of women across the world.

"The Gloucestershire online pupil survey has enabled us to listen to the voice of young people, and it is concerning that over the past 10 years more young people report not feeling confident about the future, with girls feeling less confident than boys," she said.

Such findings were also reflected in other national reports such as those of the Children's Society.

"International Women's Day reminds us that we have much work yet to do together to work for the flourishing of women worldwide as well as in the UK."

Treweek began by quoting the maiden speech of Baroness Elliot of Harwood, who in 1958 became the first female peer to speak in the House: "Except for Her Majesty's gracious Opening of Parliament, probably this is the first occasion in 900 years that the voice of a woman has been heard in the deliberations of this House".

She said it felt "poignant" to be speaking as the first female bishop to be introduced as a Lord Spiritual.

Her work with children and families as a speech and language therapist has fuelled her interest in communication and relationships.

She confessed she had not welcomed her "call to ordination" but as a follower of Jesus Christ had to say "yes".

She explained: "In the early 90s women could not be priests in the Church of England, and so when I went to theological college in Oxford I never imagined that one day I might be called to be a bishop." While she was there, the Church of England agreed after years of debate that women could be ordained priest.

Glouchester Cathedral and the diocese in general has figured prominently in box-office hits such as Sherlock Holmes, Father Brown and Harry Potter, all starring men. But the bishop added: "I realise that I live in the only county where the Lord Lieutenant, High Sheriff, Bishop and Chief Constable will soon all be women – something that perhaps seemed impossible in 1866."