1.1 Women represent over half the population of Scotland - nearly 52%. It is therefore absolutely right that women are part of the decision making of our public bodies, colleges and universities, decisions that can affect all aspects of people's lives in Scotland. We know that greater diversity in the boardroom leads to better decisions and improved performance, by encouraging new and innovative thinking. Evidence shows that greater diversity at senior management level is also linked to happier and more engaged employees and a more ethical and value-based culture. In other words, it is the smart thing to do as well as the right thing.
1.2 Of course we want to have the very best people to sit on Scotland's public boards. Appointments will be and are made on merit. And that means ensuring that public bodies, colleges and universities are reaching out to and attracting diverse and talented people, women included.
1.3 The intention of the Gender Representation on Public Boards (Scotland) Act 2018 is to help address the historic and persistent underrepresentation of women in public life. Legislation is just one measure the government is taking towards a more equal society in Scotland and it is vital that work to ensure participation and representation of women from diverse backgrounds and with intersecting identities creates lasting changes to cultures and the structures that we work within. 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.
1.4 This guidance has been prepared by the Scottish Government on behalf of Scottish Ministers in accordance with section 7 of the Gender Representation on Public Boards (Scotland) Act 2018 (referred to in this guidance as "the Act").
1.5 This guidance is intended to support appointing persons and public authorities to carry out their functions under the Act and, in doing so, appointing persons and public authorities must have regard to this guidance.
1.6 The Act is an Act of the Scottish Parliament and received Royal Assent on 9 March 2018. The Act sets a "gender representation objective" for the boards of listed Scottish public authorities that 50% of the board's non-executive members are women, and it requires appointing persons and public authorities to take certain steps towards achieving the objective.
1.7 The Ethical Standards Commissioner regulates appointments to the boards of many of Scotland's public bodies. Many, but not all of the appointments covered by the Act are regulated by the Commissioner.
1.8 The requirements of the Equality Act 2010 (Specific Duties) (Scotland) Regulations 2012 apply to many of the public authorities covered by the Act. Under these regulations there are a range of duties relating to the advancement of equality including in relation to board diversity.
What is covered by this guidance
1.9 Section 7 of the Act requires Scottish Ministers to publish guidance on the operation of the Act. The guidance must in particular cover:
(a) an appointing person's functions in—
(i) appointing non-executive members under sections 3 and 4,
(ii) encouraging applications by women under section 5(1),
(iii) taking any steps under section 6(2),
(iv) reporting under section 8(4),
(b) a public authority's functions in—
(i) encouraging applications by women under section 5(2),
(ii) taking any steps under section 6(3),
(iii) reporting under section 8(5).
1.10 To ensure that this guidance is as useful as possible, a number of additional areas are also covered, including good practice.