Scottish Government's Response to the National Advisory Council on Women and Girls

The Scottish Government's response to the First Minister's National Advisory Council on Women and Girls who published their report and recommendations in 2018.

Creating Conditions

The third key theme was focussed on creating the right conditions for change.

We need to ensure that girls and women are supported to participate fully in all decisions affecting their lives, in all personal, educational and professional opportunities that come their way and in the realisation of their rights - especially those who are the most vulnerable. We also need to ensure that they are safeguarded and supported, at all stages and in all communities of place and practice. This led to five recommendations. 

The focus for the Council’s first year of work - attitudes and culture change - is essential for creating the conditions for gender equality. The Council have rightly recognised that, at present, systems and structures are not always designed to facilitate gender equality. People can be limited in the choices of what they can do and be through, not only the messages that they receive, but also from the policies and practice at all levels that shape our lives. To create the conditions for real gender equality every individual and organisation needs to feel part of the solution.

Recommendation - Incorporate the UN Convention on the Elimination of all forms of Discrimination Against Women (CEDAW) into Scots Law

Response - Accept

Often referred to as the ‘women’s bill of rights’, the Convention on the Elimination of all forms of Discrimination Against Women (CEDAW) draws particular attention to the importance of gender equality and the need to ensure that human rights can be enjoyed, in full and without discrimination, by all women and girls. CEDAW spells out in detail women’s human right to equality and non-discrimination, and maps out the range of actions that must be taken to achieve gender equality. As a core international human rights treaty of the UN, it requires States parties to undertake legal obligations to respect, protect and fulfil women’s human rights. 

The UK ratified the treaty in 1986, and its implementation is monitored by a UN committee called the CEDAW Committee. The Committee is made up of a body of 23 independent experts, periodically examine the UK on its progress towards protecting and realising women’s human right. 

How the Government and other partners will deliver it 

This recommendation mirrors that made by the First Minister’s Advisory Group on Human Rights Leadership in December last year - i.e. that there should be an Act of the Scottish Parliament that provides human rights leadership and which incorporates international human rights treaties not already part of domestic law. 

The First Minister has endorsed the Group’s vision and a National Taskforce on Human Rights Leadership to take the work forward will be co-chaired by Cabinet Secretary for Social Security and Older People, Shirley-Anne Somerville and Professor Alan Miller. The Taskforce will be asked to consider the incorporation of CEDAW as part of this broader incorporation of rights agenda.

Recommendation - Establish a Commission on Gender Equality in Education and Learning, covering Early Years, Primary and Secondary Education

Establish a Commission on Gender Equality in Education and Learning, covering Early Years, Primary and Secondary Education and learning, tasked with providing bold and far-reaching recommendations on how gender equality can be embedded in all aspects of learning (from teacher training, to school behaviours/cultures, to the curriculum and CLD practice). The Commission should be independent of key bodies such as Education Scotland. The intended outcome is for a radical, evidenced based and gender-competent national strategy, providing much needed coherence and a pathway to safe and nurturing gender neutral education and learning in all settings.

Response - Accept

The Scottish Government agrees that there is an underlying need for more action in this area. We are committed to embedding gender equality across in early years and primary and secondary school education. A number of initiatives and other measures are being taken in order to help achieve this (some of these are listed below) but we recognise that there is a case for further, bolder and better co-ordinated action. Evidence about how girls and young women can feel about their school experiences and how children and young people can behave towards each other, alongside evidence of gender stereotyping and unconscious bias within learning settings that can lead to inherent barriers for young people, supports this.

The range of activity already being progressed and planned includes: 

  • relationships, sexual health and parenthood (RSHP) education
  • the Equally Safe strategy and delivery plan
  • the Pregnancy and Parenthood in Young People Strategy 
  • the work of the expert group on preventing sexual offending involving children and young people
  • strengthened guidance (Respect for All) on prejudice-based bullying, recording and monitoring, online/offline bullying, impact and outcomes of bullying
  • focusing on how gender and other equality issues can be made more prominent within Initial Teacher Education programmes.
  • Support for early learning providers, teachers and schools to take whole school and cross-curricular approaches to tackling gender stereotyping and promote better gender balance in participation in STEM subjects (under the STEM Education and Training Strategy)
  • Improving diversity in the ELC workforce to both improve workforce sustainability and increase the range of role models available to children in early years settings
  • The Care Inspectorate’s work with Zero Tolerance to publish a new resource to promote gender equal play in early learning
  • Preparation of national induction materials for new early learning and childcare professionals, which will prompt them to consider the importance of gender neutral practice
  • The inclusion of gender equality as a theme in the new STEM career long professional learning for early learning and childcare practitioners, as part of our wider programme to support the expansion of quality childcare.
How the Government and other partners will deliver it 

We will establish a short-life taskforce chaired by the Deputy First Minister and Cabinet Secretary for Education and Skills. The taskforce will bring together representatives from key parts of the education system and leaders in gender equality to explore how we can take additional, better connected and bolder action in order to embed gender equality within early years and school education. The establishment of a short-life task force rather than a Commission provides a less bureaucratic vehicle for achieving the aim of identifying bold actions and will help ensure progress at a faster pace and with less administrative cost. 

We will ensure that the taskforce focuses on key questions and brings forward specific actions to increase the pace with which gender equality is embedded in early years, primary and secondary education.

Recommendation - Provide 50 hours per week of funded, good quality and flexible education and childcare for all children between six months and five years old

Response - Accept ambition behind the recommendation

We welcome the Council’s challenge to us to remain ambitious in transforming early learning and childcare in Scotland - both to ensure that all of our children have the best start in life, regardless of their situation, and to help empower parents, and particularly women, to enter or return to work, training or study, if they wish to do so.

We are working closely with local government to almost double the current funded early learning and childcare entitlement to 1140 hours per year from August 2020 for all three and four year olds and around one-quarter of two year olds. The current expansion is an ambitious and transformative commitment that requires a significant expansion of the qualified day care of children workforce and investment in new and refurbished facilities. We are investing around £476 million in capital funding over the life of this parliament, and our annual revenue investment in early learning and childcare will increase by £567 million by 2021/22. 

How the Government and other partners will deliver it 

While our immediate focus is on successfully delivering the 1140 hours expansion, we recognise a need to continue to explore how the Scottish Government can support families with their childcare needs. We committed in the Gender Pay Gap Action Plan to undertake an evaluation by 2024 to determine the impact of the 1140 hours expansion on improving outcomes for children and on labour market outcomes for parents, particularly women. This evaluation, together with the Council’s recommendation, will inform our consideration of what further action the Scottish Government can take to best support our children and further strengthen women’s equal access to the labour market. 

We have also committed to developing a strategic framework on out of school care by the end of this Parliament, addressing both after school and holiday challenges faced by families. We look forward to engaging with the Council on the development of this framework. 

Recommendation - Create two ‘Daddy months’ of use-it-or-lose-it paid paternity leave in Scotland, using existing and additional powers transferred by UK Government

Response - Accept ambition behind the recommendation

Legislation and changes relating to paternity leave and paternity pay are currently reserved to the UK Government. 

We agree that action to tackle gendered assumptions about who works and who cares is required and this is set out in A Fairer Scotland for Women: a gender pay gap action plan. Broadening parental choice is a necessity if we wish to address the gender pay gap. 

The Modern Families Index, published by Working Families and Bright Horizons, shows that young fathers are becoming increasingly involved in caring for their children and want to become more so but blame their employers for their lack of work-life balance. Existing research shows a link between increased paternity leave and a range of positive outcomes, including an increase in the mother’s earnings and greater maternal wellbeing. 

How the Government and other partners will deliver it 

We have written to the UK Government in line with the commitment in the gender pay gap action plan[16] to make it clear that we strongly believe that ensuring parents are well supported during the early stages of family life is key to improving outcomes for all our children and that everyone should have access to reasonable support from employers when they become parents. 

This was reflected in the increase to four weeks paternity leave for Scottish Government employees and is intended to allow both parents to be off for a longer time together. We have asked the UK Government to:

  • Review this, so that other employers follow our lead
  • Consider making it a requirement for employers to publish their parental leave rights, therefore making these clear to job candidates
  • Introduce the right for all employees to request flexible working from day one of employment. This would help encourage and embed a more widespread culture change of gender-neutral flexible working
  • Introduce an obligation for employers to consider whether a job can be done flexibly, and furthermore to make that clear at the point of advertising.

Although some employers in Scotland offer enhanced leave or pay, we would like to see an increase in the numbers that do so and would strongly encourage employers to work in partnership with their workforce to consider voluntarily offering enhanced paternity leave.

We are currently funding Family Friendly Working Scotland to encourage employers to adopt more flexible and family friendly workplace practices and funding Timewise to undertake a feasibility study on flexible working.

We will also commission a review of the international evidence on paternity leave and more equal sharing of parental leave, its impact on children and gender, and present this to the UKG in support of change either at UK level, or the devolution of power to enable change within Scotland. This would include exploring the “use-it-or-lose-it” model of paternity leave used in countries such as Iceland. 

Recommendation - Embed gender sensitive approaches in all work relating to programmes developed through the new Scottish Government “Scottish Approach to Service Design” model

Response - Accept

Getting service design right for everyone, including women and girls, is a powerful lever for change. By involving women and girls in designing the public services they need and use we have an opportunity to transfer powerful ‘designerly’ ways of thinking and working (the ability to embrace complex problems, collaborative and disruptive sense-making, and rapid prototyping of potential design solutions).

In the realm of public services, the opportunities unlocked by gender sensitive design are significant; from ensuring women can safely report violence and harassment through to ensuring women can access the benefits they need. Getting gender sensitive design wrong has a significant human cost and a significant financial cost to the State.

The issues regarding non-gender sensitive design are well understood - if not yet sufficiently well addressed in the design industry. Whether it is the use of non-gender sensitive data informing design decisions, the lack of women in the design professions, or the failure to sufficiently well engage, empower and enable women and girls to be the ‘service user participant’ in the room when design decisions are made, women and girls issues, lives and needs are often poorly represented in the design process.

How the Government and other partners will deliver it 

This recommendation will be progressed through the work of the Scottish Approach to Service Design (SatSD)[17]. SatSD is an initiative led by Scottish Government to build a pan Scotland approach to designing public services founded on a set of shared principles and values and built on a set of shared core tools and methods that promote truly user-centred service co-design. Although a collaborative initiative and not a standard or policy it has gathered significant momentum across the public services landscape with bodies across local and central government, the NHS, public, private and third sectors. 



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