1 Project Background
1.1 The Employment Research Institute (ERI) was commissioned by the Scottish Government to identify ways in which equalities groups can be better represented at board level in the public, private and third sectors. The purpose of the research was to identify how barriers to equality can be overcome and to identify the potential costs and benefits of each approach.
1.2 Our society's understanding of equalities is changing. There has been a shift away from prevention of harmful behaviours towards a more positive vision of how we would like our society to be. The focus of equalities is on supporting the creation of a fair and equal society where all members have an equal chance to participate and fulfil their potential regardless of the characteristics that define them. Equalities are backed by a variety of laws that seek to ensure equal participation in society regardless of race, gender, age, religion or beliefs, disability or sexual orientation. The Sex Discrimination Act 1975, the Race Relations Act 1976, and the Disability Discrimination Act 1995 have been brought together, and in some areas extended, under the Equality Act 2010. The act places a duty of responsibility on public, private and third sector bodies to promote the active inclusion of all people regardless of their race, gender, age, religion or beliefs, disability or sexual orientation, and extended protected characteristics to gender re-assignment, marriage and civil partnership and pregnancy and maternity.
1.3 Diversity is distinct from equality but is closely linked. Diversity is about recognising that we are all different in a variety of ways and that from this we should create a culture that recognises, respects and values these differences. Diversity allows organisations to harness the potential of their employees and meet the needs of customers and clients. A workforce that is valued and respected has a greater potential to meet organisational goals. Diversity is not a temporary strategy to be adopted by organisations seeking to demonstrate compliance with equalities legislation, but a long-term vision that seeks to bring about fundamental change to the way in which appointments to boards are made to ensure that all members of society have an equal opportunity to participate.
1.4 There is a well-established body of research on barriers to entry to senior positions within the public, private and third sectors for equalities groups. The purpose of this review is not to restate those barriers; it is to identify how those barriers can be overcome. A separate Executive Summary accompanies this report.
Email: Jacqueline Rae