Gender Representation on Public Boards (Scotland) Act 2018: Scottish Ministers' Report to Parliament 2023

A report on the operation of the Gender Representation on Public Boards (Scotland) Act 2018.


Cabinet Secretary for Social Justice

I am pleased to introduce the Scottish Ministers’ second report to the Scottish Parliament on the operation of the Gender Representation on Public Boards (Scotland) Act 2018 (the “2018 Act”).

Historically, women in Scotland and across the UK have been under-represented in public and political life. From parliament to government, the judiciary and the boardroom, halls of power have traditionally been dominated by men.

Undoubtedly, this has changed considerably over the years. Today there are more women in decision-making positions than at any time in the past.

In the Scottish Parliament, women now account for 46% of Members, more than at any time in the Parliament’s history. The Scottish Cabinet, which is the main decision-making body of the Scottish Government, made up of the First Minister and Cabinet Secretaries, comprises 6 women and 4 men.[1]

But, we are not as close to equal representation in other areas. Despite the passing of the Parliament (Qualification of Women) Act in 1918 giving women the right to become MPs for the first time, women are still under-represented in the House of Commons more than 100 years later. Indeed, it took until 1997 for the proportion of female MPs to reach 10%. As of March 2023, 225 MPs are women.[2] While this is the highest number in history, it represents only 35% of MPs.

In Scottish local authorities, 35% of councillors are now women, up from 29% in 2017, but still some way from gender parity. The most recent Judicial Diversity Statistics for Scotland, published in November 2022, show that women continue to be under-represented in judicial positions in Scotland, accounting for just 27% of all appointments.[3]

The 2018 Act is intended to improve women’s representation on the boards of listed public authorities in Scotland, using additional powers conferred on the Scottish Parliament by the Scotland Act 2016. I am pleased that, as at December 2022, 68% of listed public authorities had achieved the gender representation objective.

The listed public authorities covered by the 2018 Act carry out a variety of functions and have responsibilities of significant national interest to the people of Scotland. They include regional and special health boards, a range of non-departmental public bodies and agencies, and the boards of higher education institutions and colleges. Accounting for more than 50% of Scotland’s population, women should have an equal voice in these spaces.

Legislation can’t always realise an outcome on its own – the passing of the Parliament (Qualification of Women) Act 1918 shows us that, but it is an important enabler of change.



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