Women in the justice system: evidence review

A review of quantitative evidence, drawn from a range of statistical data sources across the justice system in Scotland, comparing findings for women against those for men.

This document is part of a collection

5. Justice workforce

Key findings:

Across the organisations that make up Scotland's justice system, women are not always equally represented in the workforce, especially when looking at more senior roles.

This section provides information on the workforce composition of the main justice organisations in Scotland.

Many key justice bodies continue to show disparities between women and men when looking at workforce composition. While there is targeted effort across organisations in terms of improving diversity of their employees, smaller proportions are female, especially when looking at more senior roles.

The latest Police Scotland Equality and Diversity Report[32], shows that there has been an increase in the proportion of female police officers in recent years, at 32% in 2020 (compared to 31% and 30% in 2019 and 2018 respectively).This continues to represent less than a third of the total number of officers. The proportion of female officers occupying higher ranks is lower, despite increases in recent years. In 2020, just over a quarter (27%) of roles of sergeant and above were occupied by females (26% of roles of superintendent and above).

The disparity between women and men is similar when looking at the workforce of the Scottish Prisons Service, with a third (33%) of the organisation's staff in post being female in 2019-20[33], showing marginal increases in recent years (31% and 30% in 2018-19 and 2017-18 respectively).

While more women than men work in certain roles (for example, in control rooms and support staff), overall a disparity between women and men is evident for the Scottish Fire and Rescue Service workforce, with only 14% of staff being female in 2020-21[34]. This figure has been broadly stable over time.

The Crown Office and Procurator Fiscal Service's workforce presents a different picture, with over two-thirds (71%) of employees being females in 2020, broadly in line with the proportions seen in recent years. This includes around 74% of female staff at both administrative and legal level being recruited. According to the Law Society of Scotland, in 2020 more than two-thirds of new entrants to the legal profession were women, therefore the proportion of legal staff fairly accurately reflects the male/female ratio of legal graduates in Scotland. Disparity remains however at senior staff level, with 39% of staff at this level being female in 2021[35].

Similarly, Scottish Courts and Tribunal Service has a predominantly female workforce overall, with two-thirds (67%) being females in 2019-20, however disparity exists at director and non-executive director level, with just over three-fifths (61%) of these roles being occupied by male staff and 39% being occupied by female staff[36].


Email: Justice_Analysts@gov.scot

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