Scotland and the sustainable development goals: a national review to drive action

This review provides a statement of our pre-COVID-19 ambition on driving progress towards the United Nations Sustainable Development Goals in Scotland. It brings together evidence, actions and stories of how we are making progress to meet the Goals.

5 Gender Equality

  • Human Rights
  • Environment
  • Fair Work and Business
  • Culture
  • Health
  • Education
  • Children
  • International
  • Communities
  • Economy
  • Poverty


Equal rights between men and women is a fundamental principle of the United Nations going back to its establishment in 1945. More than 70 years later, nations across the globe have made significant progress towards challenging and addressing aspects of gender inequality. However, no nation can say that it has achieved equality between women and men. This is why in Scotland we will keep articulating our commitment to upholding women’s rights and taking action to tackle all manifestations of gender inequality. For example, Scotland contributes to the United Kingdom’s periodic reports to the UN and is an active participant in the oral examinations of the UK conducted by the UN Committee on the Elimination of All Forms of Discrimination Against Women.

In 2019 Scotland’s First Minister Nicola Sturgeon was appointed as the inaugural #HeForShe Global Advocate by UN Women, with the Scottish Government becoming signatories to the UN Women’s global solidarity movement for gender equality which engages men and boys as advocates for equality. As a Global Advocate, the First Minister has pledged to make concrete commitments to advancing gender equality around the world and support UN Women in their work to end global gender inequality. At home, we want Scotland to be a country where women and girls have equal rights and opportunities to men, equal access to power and resources, and live their lives free from gender based violence. We believe that Scotland can be a nation synonymous with equality, that is recognised in the international community for its commitment to, and the steps it is taking to realise equality between women and men.

Setting in place the right legislative environment to support, enable and protect women and girls is fundamental to achieving the equality we seek. It is also important to recognise that different groups of women have different experiences and different needs – including older women, ethnic minority women, disabled women and lesbian, bisexual and trans women. Targeted interventions designed around specific needs are important as part of overall acceptance and recognition. The transfer of new powers through the Scotland Act 2016, including the ability to legislate to achieve gender balance on the boards of Scottish public authorities, has helped to secure opportunities to advance equality. For example, the Gender Representation on Public Boards (Scotland) Act received Royal Assent on 9 March 2018. In addition to anti-discrimination legislation, a range of devolved Scottish legislation now supports and advances women’s rights, including the (target 5.1, 5.2, 5.3, 5.5 and 5c):

The National Advisory Council on Women and Girls (targets 5.1, 5.4, 5.5, 5.6, 5a and 5c)

The National Advisory Council on Women and Girls (NACWG) was established in 2017 to advise the First Minister on what is needed to tackle gender inequality in Scotland. The council is chaired by Louise Macdonald OBE, Chief Executive of Young Scot, and has members from the third sector, government and business – including three members aged under 20 years old. The role of the Council is to raise awareness of gender inequality; to act as a champion for positive progress and policies, and to provide effective challenge and be a catalyst for change where progress simply isn’t good enough.

Over the course of 2018, the council consulted a range of stakeholders of all genders across the country, including businesses, and third sector organisations in order to gather the evidence needed to develop its report and recommendations. To support the NACWG, a large group of supportive allies, known as the Circle was established. The Circle welcomed people of all genders, including men, boys, and non-binary people. It included representatives of a wide range of sectors and organisations across Scotland and provided insight and evidence to the NACWG and acted as public “champions” for gender equality.

Three times a year, the Circle and NACWG met to share experiences, evidence from the frontline and ideas and helped the NACWG shape its recommendations to the First Minister. The Council published its first end of year report and recommendations on 25 January 2019. The report sets out 11 recommendations to realise gender equality, including: legislating for local and national candidate quotas; incorporating the UN Convention on the Elimination of All Forms of Discrimination into Scots Law; establishing a Commission on Gender Equality in Education and Learning and creating two “Daddy Months” of use it or lose it paid paternity leave. The Scottish Government published its response to the recommendations on 26 June 2019.

A further recommendation included setting up a new institute that has the remit to examine and change public attitudes to girls and women’s equality and rights. It is intended that the What Works? Gender Institute would develop and test robust, evidence-led, inclusive and representative approaches to changing public attitudes in Scotland to girls and women’s equality and rights, including dismantling stereotypes about what girls and women should study, work at, and be. At a gathering of the NACWG Circle on 30 January 2019, the First Minister committed to giving the recommendations the Scottish Government’s full and careful consideration.

Political representation (target 5.5)

A century after some women won the right to vote, the total number of women who have ever been elected to the House of Commons is only now surpassing the number of men who sit there today. It is incumbent upon us to take steps to ensure that all women including ethnic minority, disabled women and those from LGBTI communities are properly represented in senior and decision making spaces, whether that be in our Scottish Parliament or in boardrooms across the country. The Scottish Government has a gender-balanced Cabinet, however only 35% of MSPs and 29% of local government councillors in Scotland are women. There are fewer women MSPs today than when the Scottish Parliament was created in 1999.

In November 2018, COSLA hosted the Achieving Gender Equality in Local Politics’ conference. This conference brought together women in politics and public life who are in a position to help remove barriers to participation, and some of their supporters. It provided a platform for networking and ideas sharing, encouraging participants to set their own goals for how they personally can contribute to achieving positive change.

Following the conference COSLA launched both a story sharing campaign and a safe online space, Women in Local Government, which aims to provide peer support both for women considering entering local government and those already active within it. COSLA’s Barrier to Elected Office Special Interest Group have developed an action plan focused on:

  • Promoting local politics as an opportunity to influence how our communities are run
  • Improving terms and conditions for councillors
  • Improving cultures within councils
  • Developing support networks

In September 2018 the Scottish Government announced that it will bring forward Bills on electoral reform and electoral franchise, as part of its Programme for Government and it will continue to work with stakeholders on how it can increase women’s participation in politics.

Closer Look - First Minister as a mentor

The First Minister announced her intention to mentor a young woman in February 2017. Following a selection process run by Young Scot, Charlotte Liddell was announced as the First Minister’s ‘first’ mentee on 7 August 2017.

Coinciding with International Women’s Day 2018, the First Minister announced that she would run the First Mentor competition for a second time, to identify a mentee to follow Charlotte. The competition was open to young women aged between 18 and 23 living in Scotland. Thirteen young women were invited to interview in July 2018 with three candidates invited to meet the First Minister on 2 August.

The First Minister’s mentee for 2018/19 is 21 year old Toni Twigg from Glasgow. This was announced at the meeting of the National Advisory Council on Women and Girls on 12 September.

Gender equality in the workplace (targets 5.1, 5.5, 5.7 and 5c)

In March 2019 PricewaterhouseCoopers’ Women in Work Index 2019 named Scotland the best in the UK for gender equality in the workplace. Scotland came first for 4 out of 5 indicators: gender pay gap, female labour force participation, the gap between male and female labour force participation and the unemployment rate for women. The gender employment gap (the difference between the employment rates for men and women) was 6.9 percentage points in 2017, lower than the gap of 10.6 percentage points in 2007.

Under current UK legislation, only listed public authorities with 150 or more employees must publish gender pay gap information and statements on equal pay, including occupational segregation (see Goal 8 and target 8.5). However, consistent with Scotland’s Fair Work National Outcome, in February 2016 the Scottish Parliament’s Equal Opportunities Committee agreed on proposals to lower this threshold to public authorities with 20 or more employees. Listed public authorities began reporting on these new requirements from April 2017, bringing more transparency and accountability to the issue of pay in Scotland.

Furthermore, on International Women’s Day (2019) the Scottish Government launched A Fairer Scotland for Women: Gender Pay Gap Action Plan to deliver a cross-government approach to tackling the cause of inequality women face in the labour market. The plan incorporates an analytical annex which sets out the main causes of the gender pay gap, and examines how the policy commitments in the plan are expected to impact the pay gap and equality more broadly. Equality for women is integral for inclusive growth, as laid out in our Economy National Outcome, and the plan will take decisive action to realise the full economic potential of women. It will also address labour market inequalities faced in particular by disabled and minority ethnic women, those from poorer socio-economic backgrounds and women with caring responsibilities.

It will take a collective effort on everyone’s part to tackle gender stereotyping and other equality issues – barriers to implementation include:

  • A lack of equality training or time to attend training for staff who educate, train and support pupils and students
  • Ingrained cultural perceptions held by staff and/or parents
  • Competing priorities

The Fair Work and Gender Equality Ministerial Working Group will provide a challenge function to the action that is being taken. The Scottish Government will also undertake to provide the Scottish Parliament with annual reports on progress in reducing the gender pay gap via the Economy, Energy and Fair Work Committee.

It is anticipated that the establishment of the Workplace Equality Fund should further help to reduce employment inequalities for women. The £750,000 grant scheme, which opened for applications in February 2018, helps employers to promote equality, particularly across the arts, culture, leisure, tourism, finance, manufacturing, construction, agriculture and fishing, transport and communication sectors. With respect to specific sectors, women and girls are also underrepresented in science, technology, engineering and mathematics (STEM) subjects and careers (see Goal 4). This issue is being addressed through Scotland’s youth employment strategy, Developing the Young Workforce. As part of this:

  • The Institute of Physics is supporting two project officers to work with Education Scotland on a project to improve gender balance in STEM
  • The CareerWISE programme through Equate Scotland enables female undergraduates to have the opportunity to take part in STEM work experience placements
  • Skills Development Scotland (SDS) has published a five-year Equalities Action Plan for Modern Apprenticeships (MA) in Scotland. This outlines the actions that SDS and its partners will take to improve underrepresented groups’ participation in the MA programme

Closer Look - Women in the Fire Service

The Scottish Fire Rescue Service (SFRS) launched a new recruitment campaign to find 300 new firefighters. At present, 5% of Scotland’s firefighters identify as women while less than 1% identify as belonging to an ethnic minority. Ahead of the campaign launch on 21 March 2019, serving firefighters across Scotland will welcome potential applicants at a series of targeted open days across the country to reflect individual needs and requirements, including bespoke sessions for women.

In addition, the SFRS Board is completely gender balanced with the same amount of women and men being represented, and the Chair of the Board is a woman.

Evidence also suggests there are a number of barriers around women returning to work following an extended absence, with many experiencing a ‘motherhood penalty’ following maternity. Scotland is commitment to identifying and addressing the issues which prevent women re-entering the workforce. Particularly through rebuilding skills, knowledge and confidence while enabling employers to gain from recruiting and retaining skilled, experienced staff. In Scotland, the government’s Returner’s Programme has assisted experienced women to return to the workplace after a break, helping women to update their skills and knowledge whilst also enabling employers to gain from retaining skilled, experienced staff. The Scottish Government is investing £5 million over the next three years to support around 2000 women to return to work (targets 5.1 and 5.7).

Closer Look - Women in Agriculture

The Women in Agriculture Taskforce aims to tackle inequality in Scottish agriculture and ensure that the potential of women in farming is realised in order to better represent the progressive Scotland we live in today. Its activities will centre around, but will not be limited to, the recommendations in the Women in Farming and the Agricultural Sector: research report. In doing so, the taskforce will be working to help deliver Scottish Government priorities, including: a sustainable, productive thriving rural economy; inclusive growth; tackling inequality and providing a fairer Scotland for all. The taskforce will be focused on delivery of outputs, rather than discussions. It will:

  • Consider each of the 27 recommendations and deliver proposals to take them forward
  • Deliver both short-term solutions aimed at delivering specific recommendations and longer-term solutions aimed at cultural change
  • Deliver solutions that are practical, effective and future proof
  • Consider appropriate actions beyond the 27 recommendations
  • Call in experts for further specific advice as required
  • Commission further research and reports as required
  • Publish a mid-term report in June 2018 and a final report in September 2019, setting out progress
  • Put in place arrangements to monitor progress beyond the lifespan of the Taskforce

Women representation on boards (targets 5.1, 5.5 and 5c)

We want our public bodies to reflect Scotland’s diversity and to make the most of the talent in all our communities. However, women make up less than 50% of regulated public bodies boards, and they are less likely to enter senior management positions. The Gender Representation on Public Boards (Scotland) Act 2018 sets a gender representation objective for a public board that 50% of non-executive members should be women. To help us meet this aim the Partnership for Change: 50/50 by 2020 campaign was launched in June 2015 by the First Minister. The partnership is a network of organisations and individuals who want to improve gender balance and diversity on boards. Public, private and third sector organisations are voluntarily signing up to increase the diversity of their boards.

Other activities that support the campaign include:

  • Improving the public appointments process by making selection processes more inclusive and application forms more accessible and user-friendly
  • Developing a bank of information and opportunities for aspiring board members
  • Encouraging stakeholders to offer shadowing and mentoring opportunities

Closer Look - Get on Board

Edinburgh Napier University has developed a Get on Board competency pathway framework to encourage young people to get on boards, the majority of applications being female. The Executive Leadership Programme in Board Governance has been developed as a CPD opportunity for senior managers who aspire or are current board members. Opportunities are signposted and support offered.

Closer Look - Association of Scottish Businesswomen

It is the Association of Scottish Businesswomen’s mission to empower all women with a key focus working in and on their own Scottish businesses. The Association believes that by providing a centralised supportive movement linked to all female professionals and with links to government officials, we can change the positioning of equality and the empowerment of women in leadership opportunities. One suggested outcome from such work would be for governments around the world to support and fund similar movements to allow professional females to develop in business, enterprise and innovation (targets 5.5 and 5.5.2).

Supporting women’s participation in sport (targets 5.1 and 5.5)

Although physical activity levels among teenage girls are increasing, it is recognised there is much more to do to increase participation and raise awareness across Scotland to remove the barriers some women and girls still face when it comes to getting involved in sport and physical activity. A Women & Girls in Sport Advisory Board has been established with a membership made up of key leaders from the world of women’s sport, business and media. The Board’s role is to:

  • Drive participation, marketing and awareness of Scottish women and girls in sport
  • Ensure every woman and girl in Scotland is given best the opportunity to participate in sport and physical activity, no matter their background

In 2018 the First Minister announced funding for Scotland’s Women’s National Football Team ahead of the World Cup to enable them to train full-time for the FIFA 2019 World Cup.

Violence against women and girls  (targets 5.2 and 5.3)

Violence against women and girls, in any form, has no place in our vision for a safe, strong and successful Scotland. It damages health and wellbeing, limits freedom and potential, and is a violation of the most fundamental human rights. The Scottish Government, COSLA and key partners are committed to preventing and eradicating violence against women and girls once and for all.

Equally Safe is our country’s strategy to take action on all forms of violence against women and girls. It was first published in June 2014, with an updated version published in March 2016. The strategy was developed in consultation with a wide range of statutory and third sector partners and was also informed by feedback from women who use services. The Equally Safe Delivery Plan was published on 24 November 2017. To implement Equally Safe, stakeholders and the Scottish Government are working together to prevent violence from occurring in the first place, building the capability and capacity of mainstream and specialist services to support survivors and those at risk, and strengthening the Justice response to victims and perpetrators.

Violence against women and girls is underpinned by gender inequality, and in order to prevent and eradicate it from society we must focus our efforts on delivering greater gender equality, tackling perpetrators, and intervening early and effectively to prevent violence. The Equally Safe strategy therefore complements and contributes to wider efforts to achieve gender equality. The aim of Equally Safe is to create a strong and flourishing Scotland where all individuals are equally safe and respected, and where women and girls live free from such abuse – and the attitudes that help perpetuate it. Four priority areas have been identified to contribute to the overarching aim of the strategy:

  • Scottish society embraces equality and mutual respect, and rejects all forms of violence against women and girls
  • Women and girls thrive as equal citizens: socially, culturally, economically and politically
  • Interventions are early and effective, preventing violence and maximising the safety and wellbeing of women, children and young people
  • Men desist from all forms of violence against women and girls and perpetrators of such violence receive a robust and effective response

Partners are working collaboratively to achieve this change by making best use of available resources and with a clear governance framework underpinning delivery. An Equally Safe Joint Strategic Board (JSB) has been established which is co-chaired by COSLA and the Scottish Government, and comprises senior leaders from across the public sector, third sector and academia. It provides oversight and direction for the implementation of Equally Safe, holding key partners to account for delivery.

Equally Safe has also established three thematic workstreams (focused on Primary Prevention, Capability and Capacity, and Justice) and a further workstream focused on accountability. The members of the different workstream groups are drawn from a wide range of partners with a wealth of experience and informed by the experience of women, girls, children and young people who have been subject to violence or abuse. Working groups have contributed to the development of the delivery plan for Equally Safe.

Actions taken forward since publication of Equally Safe include the following.

Strengthened partnership working:

  • Meetings of the Equally Safe JSB
  • Four work streams themed around Primary Prevention, Capability and Capacity, Justice and Accountability were established and have contributed to proposals contained within the Delivery Plan
  • The establishment of a Children and Young People stakeholder reference group to input to the Delivery Plan and inform our approach to implementation
  • With the support and input of the Improvement Service and COSLA, guidance for Violence against Women Partnerships, published in August 2016


  • £20 million from Justice budgets has been allocated towards tackling violence against women 2015-18
  • In June 2017, a further £11.8 million was announced by the Equalities Secretary to support efforts to tackle violence against women and provide support for victims, bringing the total investment from the Equality Budget to almost £30 million over 2017 to 2020
  • In February 2017, the Scottish Government announced three year rolling funding for equality and violence against women organisations

Improvement of services, including:

  • The continuation of significant levels of funding in front line services supporting victims and survivors of domestic abuse and sexual violence
  • Publication of guidance for local authorities on the commissioning of domestic abuse services by local authorities by COSLA and Scottish Women’s Aid
  • The establishment of a Taskforce for the Improvement of Services for children and adults who have experienced rape and sexual assault, to strengthen the governance arrangements for services and improve the provision of appropriate services and facilities for victims who require a forensic examination
  • Consultation on legislation to improve forensic medical services for victims of rape and sexual assault

At a local level, Violence Against Women (VAW) Partnerships are recognised as the key driver for this multi-agency work. To support this work, the Improvement Service coordinates the National VAW Network which aims to improve the capacity and capability of VAW Partnerships to implement the ambitions set out in Equally Safe at a local level and to support partnerships to engage effectively with community planning processes. The network brings together VAW Partnership coordinators/lead officers across Scotland and other key stakeholders including the Scottish Government and COSLA to share information, learning and resources, and to ensure that there is meaningful engagement and a coordinated approach taken on relevant issues. The network meets six times a year and also has a KHub group where members can connect to each other on an ongoing basis.

COSLA, the Scottish Government, and the Improvement Service have also published the Equally Safe Quality Standards and Performance Framework. Developed in partnership with the national VAW Network, the framework provides an invaluable resource to help multi-agency VAW Partnerships measure their progress and performance in implementing Equally Safe: Scotland’s Strategy for preventing and eradicating violence against women and girls at a local level. It will also help identify any areas where improvements may be required. The quality standards aim to raise awareness of the types of services, policies and processes that are most effective in tackling violence against women and girls (VAWG) and capture data on the extent to which they are currently being delivered across Scotland. Collectively, the resource aims to:

  • Provide a consistent basis for measuring the progress being made to implement Equally Safe at a local level
  • Measure the activity and performance of VAW Partnerships and identify areas for improvement to help inform future service planning and strategic investment at a local and national level
  • Generate data on the social and economic impacts of VAWG to help encourage Community Planning Partnerships to recognise VAWG as a central part of the preventative agenda and identify it as a priority in their strategic plans
  • Provide useful data that enables COSLA and the Scottish Government to show the progress being made to achieve the activities and outcomes set out in Equally Safe, and identify any areas of under-performance where additional focus on resources may be required

The Equally Safe Quality Standards and Performance Framework also offers benefits for elected members, Community Planning partners and communities as a whole by helping them to gain a better understanding of the work that is being undertaken to prevent and eradicate VAWG at a local level and the impact this is having on the lives of women and children.

The Abusive Behaviour and Sexual Harm (Scotland) Act 2016 (targets 5.2 and 5.3)

The Abusive Behaviour and Sexual Harm (Scotland) Act 2016 modernises the law on domestic and sexual abuse. The Act includes the introduction of a: ‘statutory domestic abuse aggravator’ to ensure courts take domestic abuse into account when sentencing offenders; it gives courts power to make non-harassment orders in cases where they cannot do so at present; requires judges to give juries specific directions when dealing with sexual offence cases to help improve access to justice for victims; extends Scottish courts extra-territorial jurisdiction over sexual offences committed against children to cover the other jurisdictions of the United Kingdom. It has also created a specific offence of sharing private intimate images without consent (commonly known as ‘revenge porn’) with a maximum penalty of five years’ imprisonment. Through the work of the Equally Safe Justice Expert Group, the Scottish Government is looking at both medium and longer term improvements that can be made to the justice system for all victims of this type of violence including domestic abuse victims and their children.

The Domestic Abuse (Scotland) Act 2018 (targets 5.2 and 5.3)

The Domestic Abuse (Scotland) Act 2018 was passed by the Scottish Parliament on 1 February and received Royal Assent on 9 March 2018. This bill creates a specific offence of domestic abuse that will cover not just physical abuse but also other forms of psychological abuse and coercive and controlling behaviour that cannot easily be prosecuted using the existing criminal law. Significantly, the Bill reflects the fact that children are harmed by domestic abuse by providing for a statutory aggravation that the offender either directed behaviour at a child, involved a child in the commission of the abuse, or that a child saw, heard or was present during the abuse. A development which places our National Outcome for children to grow up loved, safe and respected at its heart. When the new offence comes into force, it will be preceded by a public information campaign by the Scottish Government.

The Scottish Government has committed to providing additional funding specifically to train frontline officers and staff. This dedicated funding will enable Police Scotland to train officers and staff to identify the new offence. Scottish Women’s Aid will also receive Scottish Government funding to develop training to help communities better understand the new legislation.

The Data Picture: Domestic abuse

Target 5.2 (Indicator 5.2.1): Eliminate all forms of violence against all women and girls in the public and private spheres, including trafficking and sexual and other types of exploitation.

Levels of domestic abuse recorded by the police in Scotland have remained relatively stable since 2011-12, with around 58,000 to 60,000 incidents a year. The police recorded 59,541 incidents of domestic abuse in 2017-18, an increase of 1% compared to the previous year.

Column graph showing the number of domestic abuse incidents recorded by the police, with a further breakdown within that of incidents where a crime or offence was recorded. Up to a break in the data series in 2013-14 (where there was a change in methodology) the number of incidents varied between 50,000 and 60,000 with a slight upwards trend and the proportion of incidents where a crime or offence was recorded varying between 50% and just over 60%, with no clear trend apparent. Post 2014-15 (after the change in methodology) the number of incidents has remained relatively stable just below 60,000 per year, while the proportion of incidents where a crime or offence was recorded has dropped consistently from 54% in 2014-15 to 44% in 2017-18.

Incidents of domestic abuse recorded by the police, 2008-09 to 2017-18 (Chart has been displayed with a gap in the time series to highlight the changes in data collection)

Source: Scottish Government, Crime and Justice Statistics

Female Genital Mutilation (targets 5.2 and 5.3)

Female Genital Mutilation (FGM) is recognised internationally as a violation of the human rights of girls and women. It reflects deep-rooted inequality between the sexes, and constitutes an extreme form of discrimination against women. It is nearly always carried out on minors and is a violation of the rights of children Children and Young People National Outcome. In Scotland, the Prohibition of Female Genital Mutilation (Scotland) Act 2005 made it a criminal offence to have FGM carried out in Scotland or abroad, and increased the maximum penalty from five to 14 years imprisonment. The Scottish Government produced Scotland’s National Action Plan to Prevent and Eradicate FGM in partnership with Police Scotland, the National Health Service, councils and third sector organisations. A year one report on the FGM national action plan was published in October 2017.

Our approach to tackling FGM is aligned with the priorities in Equally Safe, Scotland’s strategy for preventing and eradicating violence against women and girls. It recognises the need to:

  • Prioritise protection from, and prevention of, FGM
  • Provide services and appropriate support for those who have experienced FGM
  • Hold perpetrators to account

Closer Look - Kenyan Women in Scotland Association

The Kenyan Women in Scotland Association (KWISA) is an African women led organisation, which promotes empowerment and advocacy for African women, girls and their families to speak for themselves. This is achieved by creating spaces, giving a voice and supporting Africans in Scotland particularly in tackling violence against women. KWISA has pioneered engaging with communities and faith leaders in Scotland and works towards restoration of the dignity of women and girls, preventing FGM and other harmful traditional practices (HTPs) and supporting women and families affected by FGM to protect girls at risk. KWISA addresses all types of FGM because many victims suffer other types which are not addressed by other groups in Scotland and the association works with women, faith leaders and young people in Scotland and in Africa. KWISA facilitates engagement between service providers and women and girls affected by FGM and other HTPs as a means to improving service delivery.

Pregnancy and Maternity Discrimination Working Group (targets 5.4 and 5.6)

The Equality and Human Rights Commission (EHRC) research, Pregnancy and Maternity-Related Discrimination and Disadvantage First Findings: Surveys of Employers and Mothers, found that as many as 54,000 new mothers are forced out of their jobs every year in the UK. The EHRC is working with the Scottish Government to tackle pregnancy and maternity discrimination. The Scottish Government’s Minister for Employability and Training also chairs the Pregnancy and Maternity Discrimination Working Group that is tasked with creating guidelines for employers, as well as improving access to guidance for pregnant women and new mothers. Unpaid care and domestic work (target 5.4) which disproportionately involves women is addressed in the Goal 1 chapter.

Engaging with men (target 5.4)

Work on gender equality concentrates largely on women’s issues because women disproportionately experience discrimination and inequality. However, we recognise that there are areas where men also experience disadvantage – for example, workplace cultures that do not recognise or support their family or childcare responsibilities. Men also may not always be recognised as active parents by family services. And they experience poor health outcomes across a range of health issues that do not properly take account of their needs.

A range of initiatives to further progress in this area, include:

  • Setting out a commitment to encourage fathers to become more actively involved in the care of their children (where safe, practical and in the best interests of the child) in the National Parenting Strategy
  • Establishing a Fathers National Advisory Panel to help take forward the commitments we have made
  • Funding Families Need Fathers to provide information and support for fathers and other family members facing contact problems after separation. Families Need Fathers are also working to improve understanding of existing legal rights and promote non-resident fathers’ involvement in their children’s education
  • Supporting the Fathers Network Scotland to deliver Year of the Dad, a national campaign running throughout 2016 to celebrate the difference a great dad can make and the important role dads can play in child development

Challenges and next steps

In many senses Scotland has world class equalities legislation in place. There is always room for improvement, however, and the introduction of a human rights Outcome in the new NPF will help to highlight what further legislative backing we need to set in place to reach our equalities ambitions. Our values of kindness, dignity, compassion and respect will continue to drive all we do in this regard. Our task is both structural and practical, with the need to change sometimes deep seated cultures, social and institutional practices setting long term challenges for us.

To this end, Scotland does have a wide range of civil society, voluntary, third sector and local authority run organisations devoted to progressing the needs and interests and girls and young women as well as all others who suffer from marginalisation, discrimination and unequal treatment. Areas requiring concentrated effort in what is otherwise a largely positive national story around gender equality include the:

  • Continued occurrence of violence against women and girls (target 5.2)
  • Total eradication of FGM, early and forced marriages and other harmful practices (target 5.3)
  • Raising the profile of women within particular sectors of employment and their representation at senior levels across public life and in relation to work (target 5.5)
  • The persistence of gender based stereotyping for all sexes and the negative consequences of this for mental health, self-esteem and distorted expectations around the roles we should or should not fulfil in society (target 5.1 and 5.4)
  • Lower rate of activity levels among teenage girls as well as unequal value which is still accorded to some women and girls’ sports

Many of the initiatives and strategies referred to in this chapter will help us to move forward on these persistent problems. However, we cannot be complacent, and work with partners following the publication of this review will focus discussion and planning around finding practical solutions to these concerns, as well as on positively enhancing action on those areas where we are already having meaningful impact. The achievement of gender equality is a great opportunity for Scotland socially, economically and in terms of our overall happiness and wellbeing. By re-doubling our efforts together, across organisations, communities and generations, we are confident we can succeed.

Commitments in the Scottish Government’s 2019-20 Programme for Government that relate to this Goal

  • The Scottish Government is consulting this year on creating a statutory “duty to notify”, a legal duty on specified Scottish public authorities to notify Police Scotland about suspected human trafficking and exploitation victims
  • A consultation on approaches to challenge men’s demand for prostitution and continuing to support work to reduce the harms associated with commercial sexual exploitation
  • Introducing the Forensic Medical Services (Victims of Sexual Offences) Bill to ensure that timely healthcare support, including a forensic medical examination, is available to victims whether or not they have reported the crime to the police, or are undecided
  • Supporting the rollout of the Caledonian Programme which provides male perpetrators of violence against women with rehabilitation services to address the issues giving rise to their offending
  • Create a What Works? Institute to test and promote best practice in changing attitudes and stereotypes around women and girls
  • In 2019 the Scottish Government will launch a Women Returners Programme, supporting women to re-enter the workplace following a career break across a range of sectors where women are underrepresented, including in Science, Technology, Engineering and Maths (STEM)
  • Establish a Women’s Health Plan, which will lead on actions to target women’s heath inequalities, improving access to reproductive health services and reducing inequalities in health outcomes



Back to top