Good practice guide
8.1 Work to improve the gender balance and diversity of Scotland's public boards has been on-going for a number of years and pre-dates the introduction of the Act. As a result, there is a wealth of evidence and good practice to support appointing persons and listed public authorities to fulfil their duties under the Act and to achieve the gender representation objective.
Encouraging applications by women
8.2 The following paragraphs in this guidance suggest some practical steps that can be taken to encourage women to apply to become non-executive members. It is important to understand that these practical steps may not, on their own, lead to more women on boards. Achieving that requires a culture and an environment within organisations that enables and promotes participation in public and corporate life. It is also important to recognise that women are not a homogeneous group and what interests and encourages one group of women may not resonate with others.
Planning and use of data
- Early engagement leads to better recruitment planning and will deliver more diverse applicants. There are fewer opportunities to deliver a targeted campaign designed to attract a diverse range of applicants when there is pressure to get people into roles quickly.
- Succession planning is critical to meeting the gender representation objective. Working together, appointing persons and public authorities should make sure they understand the board's skills and diversity requirements over the medium to long term and develop a strategy for meeting these. This could involve providing mentoring and other development opportunities to potential candidates – please see 'Taking other steps' on page 12.
- The Scottish Government has published Succession Planning guidance (available here) to support this activity.
- Those involved in succession planning and planning for appointment rounds should understand the diversity of skills on the board and diversity of protected characteristics.
- In order to effectively design an appointment round, it is also important to understand who applied for previous appointment rounds and who was successful and interviewed and ultimately appointed. This can give some understanding of what worked previously.
- This data gathered from previous appointment rounds should be considered alongside the previous process so particular parts of the process that were successful or unsuccessful can be identified
Good practice in planning case study: sportScotland
Good practice in planning case study: The Poverty and Inequality Commission
Person specifications and role descriptions
- A person specification details the skills knowledge, understanding and/or experience required to undertake the role. It should set out clear and unambiguous criteria for selection with descriptors explaining what evidence would need to be demonstrated.
- Setting out the skills in this way helps the appointing person to match the criteria for selection to appropriate methods of assessment. It also ensures appointing persons and potential applicants understand what the board's needs are and how applicants will be assessed.
- The language used when setting out the skills or describing the role can inadvertently create barriers for applicants and discourage people from applying. It needs to be clear and written in plain English and avoid the use of jargon.
- This is particularly important where public authorities operate in male dominated sectors.
- A reference list of gendered wording can be found on page 17 of this document.
- Role descriptions should be clear about the anticipated time commitment and if possible broken down into how much time is spent on each aspect of the role.
- To provide further help to applicants, set out what support is given to meet the commitment required in the role.
Good practice in person specification case study: Creative Scotland
Attraction and outreach
- The appointing person should aim to design positive and inclusive publicity strategy which encourages applications from those in underrepresented groups. It can be made clear which groups are being encouraged to apply for example 'we particularly welcome applications from women/disabled people/people from an ethnic minority.'
- It is important to involve the public authority so its brand can be used to attract those interested in the subject. Publicity which appeals to someone's passion for a particular subject or area can encourage them to apply. Be creative!
- Publicity should always include the contact details of someone who is able to answer questions and have informal discussions with potential applicants.
- Positive action measures can be used to encourage applications from people with protected characteristics. This might include targeting outreach activities to networks of women.
- There is nothing to stop individuals being approached to ask to consider applying. This is important particularly for women who may otherwise self-select themselves out of a process based on misperceptions of the level of skills, knowledge or experience required. It is, however, important to stress that the appointments process is based on merit and the recruitment process is fair.
- Some thought should be given to encouraging those not actively seeking a position to consider applying or those who may not have considered that a non-executive role was something that would interest them. Social media can be particularly helpful here.
- Appointing persons, the organisation or both working together should also consider holding public events to talk about the roles or the appointments process. This is a great opportunity to talk about the roles and the process in an informal setting.
Good practice in attraction: NHS Greater Glasgow and Clyde
Good practice in attraction: Scottish Housing Regulator
Application and assessment
- Appointing persons need to agree that the assessments they choose are the most appropriate way to test the skills, knowledge or experience that are required for the role.
- Appointing persons should only seek evidence which meets the requirements of the role as set out in the person specification.
- Appointing persons have a responsibility to identify and recognise their own bias and understand how it may impact selection. At the outset of the process they should specifically discuss how they can mitigate bias at each stage of the appointment round, for example, applications can be anonymised.
- Appointing persons should always act in a positive and encouraging way when meeting candidates and during the interviews.
- Appointing persons should document the assessment, taking notes to ensure they gather evidence on each candidate, this information can be useful in feeding back to unsuccessful candidates.
- Appointing persons should evaluate candidates after their interview instead of evaluating all candidates at the end of the assessment stage. It is a much more effective way of assessing candidates.
Good practice in assessment: Judicial Appointments Board for Scotland
Good practice in assessment: VisitScotland
Taking other steps
8.3 If the gender representation objective has not yet been achieved, section 6 of the Act requires appointing persons and public authorities to take any other steps that they consider appropriate with a view to achieving the objective by 31 December 2022. "Other steps" means steps taken in addition to those required to meet sections 3 and 4 of the Act.
- Public authorities should aim to raise the profile of the board, and board members, so potential applicants can understand what the board does, how members contribute and therefore why they might want to be involved.
- Public authorities can challenge perceptions of 'traditional board members' by featuring profiles of the current board on websites or in other materials, focusing on their diversity and the value it adds.
- Public authorities and appointing persons could encourage current board members, from under-represented groups, for example minority ethnic women, to volunteer as role models and take part in outreach and awareness raising activity.
- Appointing persons, the staff of public authorities and current board members should actively be ambassadors for the work of the board, using their networks and contacts to raise awareness.
- Public authorities and appointing persons could engage with equalities organisations to seek their expert advice on reaching underrepresented groups and understanding real and perceived barriers.
Building a pipeline
- Identify potential applicants from committees, working groups or stakeholder groups who frequently engage with the board.
- Offer opportunities to potential candidates to shadow existing board members or observe board proceedings.
- Consider as part of continuous professional development (CPD) creating opportunities for senior women to be supported to take up e.g. shadow board opportunities or have a programme of CPD release to allow them time away from work when they are successful in applying for board positions.
- Ask current board members to mentor potential candidates.
- Provide targeted networking opportunities e.g. for women candidates with existing women board members.
- Use co-option to board committees to build board experience in individuals.
- Providing training or coaching to women candidates prior to interview.
- Engage with organisations whose purpose is increasing diversity on boards e.g. Changing the Chemistry, Women on Boards.
Creating a culture
- Set up a Succession Planning Committee to keep the needs of the board under review, plan awareness raising and pipeline building activity, and offer advice to appointing persons when a vacancy arises. The Scottish Government has published succession planning guidance and a toolkit.
- Identify and address potential barriers created by the board culture, for example the timing and location of meetings, how papers are presented and how far in advance. Otherwise the diverse voices on the board may not be heard and possibly if barriers remain to their involvement they may not want to remain on the board. The UK Financial Reporting Council issued a report in July 2016 on board culture which may provide helpful.
- Identify and address barriers that might prevent access for diverse groups of women such as disabled women and minority ethnic woman. And consider the needs of women who are pregnant or have children.