Ministerial Foreword by the Cabinet Secretary for Communities, Social Security and Equalities
The population of Scotland on census day in 2011 was estimated to be 5,295,403, fifty-one and a half per cent of whom were women  .
And yet, women continue to be under-represented in political, civic and public life and at senior levels and in the boardroom. Women make up just: 35% of members of the Scottish Parliament; 29% of members of the House of Commons; 24% of local government councillors in Scotland  ; and 26.1% of FTSE 100 boards  .
As a Government we have made our position crystal clear - this is simply not good enough. And the time for change is now.
The decisions made by public boards affect all of us and impact on all aspects of our lives. Women's voices must be part of these decisions. Not only is this a matter of equality and fairness but there is strong evidence to suggest that better balanced boards perform better too.
Scotland's public sector boards do a great job which is why I have no qualms about our ability to rise to this challenge together. This is an opportunity to demonstrate our commitment to equality with concrete action.
This is not to say that we haven't made progress, we have. In our public sector, real advances have been made over the last parliamentary term to improve the diversity of Ministerial appointments to the boards of regulated public bodies  . In 2015, for the first time, Scottish Ministers appointed more women than men to regulated public boards at 53.6%.  , helping to bring the overall percentage of women to an historic high of 42%.
But we won't rest on our laurels. We must ensure that we maintain the progress we have made and that we keep moving forward.
In Scotland today, we have a female First Minister, a gender balanced Cabinet, and female leaders of the two largest opposition parties in the Scottish Parliament. As the First Minister herself has said, this should send a positive and powerful message to women and girls everywhere that there should be no limits - you can and you should pursue your dreams and ambitions, wherever they lie.
I hope this Bill sends a very clear and unequivocal message too. A message to women who tell us that they simply don't see themselves reflected on Scotland's public boards at the moment, and doubt whether they are the kind of people that we want. You are.
Of course, every appointment to a public body is unique, and potential candidates will have to demonstrate that they have the relevant qualifications, skills, knowledge and experience that the board requires. This will not change.
But our public boards should also reflect the diversity of people who live in Scotland: people from different ethnic minority communities; disabled people; LGBTI people, men and women.
Only when our public boards do reflect Scotland's diversity can we be sure that we are tapping into the talents of all of our people and that we are successfully breaking down the barriers that we know some people experience in our society.
And so I am delighted to launch this consultation on our draft Gender Representation on Public Boards (Scotland) Bill.
I am particularly keen to hear from all of those bodies and individuals who are involved in appointments to public sector boards in Scotland: public bodies themselves, including colleges and higher education institutions; current board members and those who are contemplating applying for a public appointment.
I very much hope that your feedback will help us to strengthen and inform the development of the Bill before we introduce it to the Scottish Parliament in Summer 2017.