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Gender equality

We believe no one should be denied rights or opportunities because of their gender. So we are working to reduce and remove the social and economic barriers faced by women and men in Scotland.

Improving women's representation on boards in Scotland

We want our public bodies to reflect Scotland's diversity, and make the most of the talent in our communities.

But women make up less than 50% of regulated public bodies' boards, and they are less likely to enter senior management positions. So we are looking to improve women's representation in this area.

Partnership for Change: 50/50 by 2020

In the 2014 Programme for Government we committed to achieve a gender balance on private, public and third sector boards by 2020.

To help us meet this aim we launched the Partnership for Change: 50/50 by 2020 campaign in June 2015.

The partnership is a network of organisations and individuals who want to improve gender balance and diversity on boards.

Public, private and third sector organisations are voluntarily signing up to increase the diversity of their boards.

Our other activities that support the campaign include:

  • improving the public appointments process by making selection processes more inclusive and application forms more accessible and user-friendly
  • developing a bank of information and opportunities for aspiring board members
  • encouraging stakeholders to offer shadowing and mentoring opportunities

We have also published research into women on boards in the private sector:

Changing the legislation

Gender balance on boards

In 2014 we carried out a consultation on achieving a gender balance on public boards. We plan to consult further and introduce legislation to achieve this.

Diversity succession planning

In February 2016 the Scottish Parliament's Equal Opportunities Committee agreed on proposals to introduce diversity succession planning for board appointments to listed public authorities that have a board or management structure.

From April 2017 boards must:

  • use the diversity information gathered on their behalf to produce succession plans to increase their board's diversity
  • publish details of the gender make-up of their boards
  • publicly report on their succession plan's progress

This will help ensure that public bodies put in place diversity-sensitive board recruitment processes, and take steps to make their boards more diverse if the evidence shows it is needed.

Increasing childcare provision

We are committed to increasing and improving high-quality, flexible early learning and childcare that is accessible and affordable. We are prioritising this for those with the most need.

Since 2014:

  • early learning and childcare hours have increased from 475 to 600 per year for all three- and four-year-olds
  • the entitlement to 600 hours has been extended to more than a quarter of two-year-olds who will benefit the most (this includes those who are, or have been at any point since their second birthday, looked after, subject to a kinship care or guardianship order; those who are disadvantaged because their parents do not have sustainable employment; and those in low-income families, as defined by the free school meal criteria)
  • councils have started to improve the flexibility and range of options for how these hours can be accessed
  • we have pledged to start planning for an increase in early learning and childcare provision from 600 to 1,140 hours a year by the end of the next parliament

The vast majority of people working in the early learning and childcare sector are female. As part of the workforce expansion plan, we will take steps to promote this as a rewarding career for both men and women.

Our Blueprint for 2020 action plan outlines the steps we will be taking in 2017 and 2018 to expand early learning and childcare.

Ensuring fairer workplaces for women

We have:

  • established the Fair Work Convention which is developing a Fair Employment and Workplace Framework for Scotland
  • launched the Scottish Business Pledge which aims to create a fairer Scotland through more equality, opportunity and innovation in business
  • established the Strategic Group on Women and Work which will help women to fulfil their potential in the labour market
  • supported the Close the Gap campaign to raise awareness about the pay gap between women and men

Gender pay gap information and equal pay statements

Under the current legislation, only listed public authorities with 150 or more employees must publish gender pay gap information and statements on equal pay, including occupational segregation.

In February 2016 the Scottish Parliament's Equal Opportunities Committee agreed on proposals to lower this threshold to public authorities with 20 or more employees.

Listed public authorities will be expected to begin reporting on these new requirements from April 2017 onwards.

This will bring more transparency and accountability to the issue of pay.

Pregnancy and maternity discrimination

The Equality and Human Rights Commission (EHRC) research, Pregnancy and Maternity-Related Discrimination and Disadvantage First Findings: Surveys of Employers and Mothers, found that as many as 54,000 new mothers are forced out of their jobs every year in the UK.

We are tackling discrimination against new and expectant mothers by:

  • creating a working group to produce guidelines for employers to ensure best practice in the recruitment, retention, training and development of pregnant workers
  • including best practice information about managing pregnancy and maternity in the Scottish Business Pledge
  • strengthening employer advice (including information on employment rights) to ensure that work environments are safe and healthy for pregnant women and new mothers
  • improving public monitoring and reporting of pregnancy and maternity under the Scottish Public Sector Equality Duty (PSED)

Removal of fees for employment tribunals

We believe that fees for employment tribunals are a barrier to accessing justice. We will remove them as soon as the powers are available through the Scotland Bill.

This will make it easier for all employees, not just women experiencing pregnancy-related or sex discrimination, to have their cases heard.

Addressing occupational segregation

Occupational segregation is the unequal concentration of men and women:

  • in different kinds of jobs (horizontal segregation)
  • at different levels (vertical segregation)

It is caused by gender stereotyping, inflexible working patterns and undervaluing roles and occupations usually considered 'women's work'.

In 2012 we jointly hosted the first ever Scottish Women's Employment Summit with the Scottish Trades Union Congress (STUC).

We fund:

  • Equate Scotland (£200,666 annually from 2017 until 2020) to support the recruitment and retention of women where they are significantly underrepresented
  • Close the Gap (£205,000 annually from 2017 until 2020) to change employment practices and workplace cultures to support gender equality and tackle the pay gap

We fund and play an active role in the Family Friendly Working Scotland partnership.

The partnership promotes the benefits of family-friendly, flexible working for employees and employers. Its aim is to make these ways of working the norm for employees, including men.

Occupational segregation in the young workforce

The Independent Adviser on Poverty and Inequality's report, Shifting the Curve: a report to the First Minister, recommends that we should do more to tackle occupational segregation in the young workforce.

One of the ways we are addressing this is through implementation of the Modern Apprenticeship Equalities Action Plan, published by Skills Development Scotland (SDS) in December 2015.

The plan contains a range of activities that SDS will undertake with partners to address underrepresentation in the programme.

It includes specific improvement targets for gender balance which will be reported on annually.

Improving women and girls' representation in science, technology, engineering and mathematics (STEM)

Women and girls are underrepresented in STEM subjects and careers. We are addressing this through our youth employment strategy Developing the Young Workforce. As part of this:

  • the Institute of Physics is supporting two Project Officers who are working with Education Scotland on a project to improve gender balance in STEM
  • we are delivering the CareerWISE programme through Equate Scotland so that female undergraduates have the opportunity to take part in STEM work experience placements
  • Skills Development Scotland (SDS) has published a five-year Equalities Action Plan for Modern Apprenticeships (MA) in Scotland. It outlines the actions that SDS and its partners will take to improve underrepresented groups' participation in the MA programme

Engaging with men

Our work on gender equality has concentrated largely on women's issues because women disproportionately experience discrimination and inequality.

But we recognise that there are areas where men also experience disadvantage – for example, workplace cultures that do not recognise or support their family or childcare responsibilities.

Men also may not always be recognised as active parents by family services. And they experience poor health outcomes across a range of health issues that do not properly take account of their needs.

Working with fathers

Our work to support fathers includes:

  • setting out our commitment to encourage fathers to become more actively involved in the care of their children (where safe, practical and in the best interests of the child) in the National Parenting Strategy, published in October 2013
  • establishing a Fathers National Advisory Panel to help take forward the commitments we have made
  • funding Families Need Fathers to provide information and support for fathers and other family members facing contact problems after separation. Families Need Fathers are also working to improve understanding of existing legal rights and promote non-resident fathers' involvement in their children's education
  • supporting the Fathers Network Scotland to deliver Year of the Dad, a national campaign running throughout 2016 to celebrate the difference a great dad can make and the important role dads can play in child development

Men in childcare

Men In Childcare (MiC) promotes training and recruitment for men in the early years childcare workforce.

It provides opportunities for men to undertake accredited qualifications in early years and childcare. It also provides support and mentoring to the men during their training.

Women and men in Scotland: key statistics

Key statistics about women and men in Scotland including income, education, health and transport:


We provide funding to a variety of organisations and projects that promote equality of opportunity for women and men in Scotland.

Details about future funding will be available when it is announced.