Taking Other Steps
Section 6 places a duty on appointing persons and public authorities to take such steps as they consider appropriate, in addition to anything done under sections 3 to 5 in the case of appointing persons, and in addition to anything done under section 5 in the case of public authorities, with a view to achieving the gender representation objective by 31st December 2022.
Under subsection (1), section 6 applies whenever the gender representation objective is not achieved in relation to a public board.
Do you have any comments on the guidance on meeting the duties under section 6 of the Act? If so, please let us know.
The overriding theme from the comments provided on the guidance regarding taking other steps was objection to the term "gender".
A few other comments were provided by respondents, as outlined below:
- Respondents felt that correcting the imbalance between men and women represented on the boards of public authorities was a priority – and must be taken seriously.
- Aligned to the above point were a few comments from respondents around the duty of public bodies to provide evidence/demonstrate the steps and actions they had undertaken, how they had engaged with women, and the results of the actions taken (including, where appropriate, an explanation into why they failed to meet their obligations under the Act).
- A few comments were made by respondents around the helpfulness of having a deadline for achieving equality representation between women and men on the boards of public authorities, and that the reporting period allowed time for progress to be made.
- Some respondents mentioned that this requirement is only in place until December 2022. It was suggested that this implied that once gender balance had been achieved it would be maintained. An example provided that helps explain the point raised was as follows - it might be that, particularly in small boards, a woman leaves the board and a man (who is the best candidate at the subsequent appointment round) is appointed. There was a strong sense from the feedback that there was a continuing need to ensure that, while appointment should always be based on merit, subsequent recruitment aimed to re-establish gender balance.
- A couple of respondents felt that there should be a "long-term commitment to cultural change rather than short term measures driven by the reporting timeframes". In this regard, it was suggested that public bodies continue to report on additional steps they had undertaken to encourage applications from women post-2022.
Comments that related to the specific content of the guidance were as follows:
- Respondents made reference to Section 5 of the guidance. It was felt that the duty to take "such additional steps as they (public authorities, appointing persons and Scottish Ministers) consider appropriate" lacked necessary specificity. Respondents commented that the guidance was weak and did not provide sufficient clarity as to what "additional steps" in pursuit of the objective public bodies may wish to consider. Here, some respondents commented that:
"the examples provided put a considerable degree of onus on women applicants and do not sufficiently reflect the need for organisational and structural changes to address structural barriers to employment".
- Respondents also made reference to Paragraph 5.3 of the guidance where there is mention to the culture and conditions of the boardroom and again. It was suggested that "it would be good to expand this as such matters are easily dismissed by those who with less emotional awareness (low EQ)".
- Respondents commented that the document could refer to the board ensuring that all opinions are heard and valued and that board chairs must consider, in consultation with the rest of the board, what steps they need to take to ensure this is working effectively. This may involve canvassing views on an anonymous basis.
- Respondents commented on Section 6.13 and that it might benefit from clarifying why section 6 of the Act ceases to exist after December 2022 and cross referring to what reporting requirements remain in place thereafter (i.e. for example, if correctly interpreted, to explain that section 3 (2) of the regulations requires reporting every 2 years after April 2021). Respondents would welcome more explanation of the operation of the Act in regard to Section 6.
- Respondents suggested that measures relating to section 6 aims could include: a) monitoring recruitment, training and promotions downstream to support women's access to senior employment positions across the public sector, a measure which will increase their experience for potential future public appointments; b) mechanisms to facilitate board renewal, including term limits; and c) creation of a national pool of equally-qualified candidates that are skilled and prepared for public appointments.