Policy actions  1 of 3

Gender equality in the workplace

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 law

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.

Since 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.

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
  • 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.

Gender pay gap action plan

Our gender pay gap action plan 'A fairer Scotland for women' was published in March 2019. Its aim is to bring together a cross-government approach to tackle the causes of gendered inequality in the labour market. 

The plan will address inequalities faced by women, particularly disabled women, minority ethnic women, women from poorer socio-economic backgrounds, and women with caring responsibilities. 

It sets out a range of actions that we plan to take over the coming years to further reduce the gender pay gap for employees in Scotland

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 in 2018 and 2019) to support the recruitment and retention of women where they are significantly underrepresented
  • Close the Gap (£205,000 in 2018 and 2019) 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 representation in STEM

Women and girls are underrepresented in science, technology, engineering and mathematics (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

Workplace Equality Fund

We have set up the Workplace Equality Fund to help reduce employment inequalities, discrimination and barriers for minority ethnic people, women, disabled people and older workers.

The new expanded Workplace Equality Fund 2019 to 2020 will continue to focus on supporting minority ethnic people, women, disabled people and older workers, however, the fund now also supports women transitioning though the menopause, victims of domestic abuse, and workers who are experiencing social isolation and loneliness (such as unpaid carers). A total of 23 projects, involving a range of employers, will receive funding totalling £800,000

It is being delivered on our behalf by by the Impact Funding Partners. Find out more about the Workplace Equality Fund.

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