Overcoming Barriers to Equality and Diversity Representation on Public, Private and Third Sector Boards in Scotland – Executive Summary

The Employment Research Institute was commissioned by the Scottish Government to identify how barriers to equality and diversity representation at board level in public, private and third sector organisations could be overcome, particularly for women. This is the executive summary that accompanies the main report.

2 Background Evidence

2.1 Since publication of the Lord Davies report into Women on Boards in 2011[2], the proportion of women on boards of the FTSE 100 companies has increased from 12.5% to 20.7% in March 2014 and to 22.8% as of October 2014. In the same periods there has been an increase from 7.8% to 15.6% and to 17.4% among FTSE 250 boards.

2.2 In Scotland, women account for 36% of the members of Ministerial appointed, regulated public boards[3]. However this figure varies significantly by the type of public board. Health boards, Executive non-departmental public bodies (NDPBs) and Advisory NDPBs have the highest percentage of female representation on their boards. However public corporations and executive NDPBs fell below 20% for female board membership.

2.3 Under proposals outlined by the then Deputy First Minster, Nicola Sturgeon, an independent Scotland would introduce quotas to ensure that 40% of director level positions in large public and private organisations would be reserved for women. In March 2014, the then Cabinet Secretary for Commonwealth Games, Sport, Equalities and Pensioners Rights Shona Robison launched a consultation[4] on the possible use of mandatory quotas to ensure at least 40% of public boards are made up of women. The principal driver of this change was the need to ensure that boards represent the communities they serve.

2.4 As of November 2014, Nicola Sturgeon as the new First Minister, with Scotland's first ever 50/50 gender balanced cabinet, will launch early next year a "Partnership for Change Pledge" to achieve a 50/50 split on boards by 2020 ("50:50 by 2020")[5]. Further, post-Referendum, the Scottish Parliament's powers will include the introduction of gender quotas in respect of public bodies in Scotland[6].

2.5 The UK government is also aspiring to appoint women to half of all new appointments to the boards of public bodies by the end of 2015[7]. Progress towards this aspiration appears well advanced. Between April and September 2014, the percentage of new public appointments achieved by women in England was 44%[8].


Email: Jacqueline Rae

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