University commits to gender quota for governing bodies

Robyn Bell

The University of Glasgow has pledged to ensure that women hold at least 40% of positions on its governing bodies.

The assurance was provided after the chairs of Scotland’s 18 higher education institutions committed to achieving a greater gender balance across their boards, with the implementation of a 40:40 split of men and women. Either male or female members will account for the remaining 20% of positions.

A quota of 40% women was recommended in the Report of the Review of Higher Education Governance in Scotland in January 2012, however the University of Glasgow is currently falling short of this target, with women making up only 36% of court.

David Newall, secretary of court commented: “The University of Glasgow was delighted to commit to achieve gender equality with a minimum of 40% of both men and women, with the remaining 20% of either gender.

”At the moment the University of Glasgow has 36% female representation and progress against the commitment of 40% will be reviewed in 2018 which gives the sector scope to deliver change.”

He added: “The commitment from the chairs of universities’ governing bodies from across Scotland was made in recognition that having diverse and suitably qualified members on the governing body is good for governance. Every institution remains committed to attracting and appointing the very best candidates with the skills and experience needed for the role. This commitment represents the best way to achieve gender equality on boards and retain effective and accountable governance.”

The move follows first minister of Scotland, Nicola Sturgeon’s comments to the Glasgow Guardian earlier this year, that she “would like to see” a compulsory quota being implemented so that 40% of positions are held by women, and “not just for universities.” However Sturgeon also noted that there is “a limit at the moment of what we can legislate for in the Scottish Parliament.”

Sturgeon’s comments allude to recent attempts by the Scottish Parliament to obtain devolved powers from Westminster, facilitating the introduction of compulsory quotas for female representation. The recommendation that women should make up at least 40% of university courts, as set out in the Higher Education Governance in Scotland bill, acts merely as a guideline and is not currently enforceable.


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