A recent study carried out by Scottish feminist organisation, Engender, found that of the top Scottish leadership positions across politics, business, the public sector, the media, culture and sport, 27% are filled by women.
The results were released ahead of this year’s International Women’s Day. The report showed that none of Scotland’s FTSE 100 companies – the biggest companies in the country – have a woman CEO. Although recent initiatives such as the 30% Club, which began in 2010, strive to increase the number of women on boards of management, women are still absent from top leadership positions.
Though Scotland’s three main parties are led by women: Nicola Sturgeon of the Scottish National Party (SNP), Ruth Davidson of the Scottish Conservative, and Kezia Dugdale of Scottish Labour, the current figure of female MSPs falls at 35%. The Engender report found that women represent 26% of University Principals, and only 7% of police officers.
Emma Ritch, executive director of Engender, commented on the report, stating that “white, non-disabled men hold the most power in Scotland.”
Ritch claims there is a need for a change in society’s assumptions about the leadership qualities of either gender, continuing: “men are not naturally more suited to positions of power, but they do benefit from cultural expectations about leadership and authority.”
She added that “women face persistent barriers to achieving leadership roles, ranging from structural issues like a lack of flexible work, through unlawful harassment and discrimination, to an insidious cultural assumption that we just don’t belong around boardroom tables.”
First Minister Nicola Sturgeon told the Sunday Herald: “There have been huge strides forward in gender equality but more still needs to be done.”
Though only a little over a third of MSPs are women, Sturgeon said that she was proud of the way women are represented in Holyrood. She also spoke of the Scottish Government’s efforts to improve gender equality, including the “50:50 by 2020 initiative to encourage gender balance in boardrooms across Scotland over the next few years.”
Scottish Labour leader Kezia Dugdale told the Sunday Herald that once we go past the surface, “it’s all too obvious that the gender gap still exists in many workplaces and even in Parliament.”
Dugdale spoke of the evolution of gender equality within the Scottish Parliament, comparing the 40% of women MSPs in 2003 to the current proportions. She stated: “In this current Parliament only 35 per cent of MSPs are female – the exact same proportion as in 2011 – so things have gone backwards and are now stagnating. We are trying to change that – Scottish Labour went into last year’s elections with gender equality among our candidates, but not all other parties could say the same. Indeed if you look at the Tories now, only six of their 31 MSPs are women.
“The Parliament as a whole needs to lead by example so we can show other public bodies and businesses how and why gender equality is vital to the way that we run our country and our economy. We also need more women in Parliament because so many of the decisions made there affect women disproportionately.”
When questioned about the issue of gender equality by the Sunday Herald, Scottish Conservative leader, Ruth Davidson, declined to comment.
The Engender report contained suggestions to improve gender parity in all sectors, as it has been found that the number of Scottish female senior police officers and trade union general secretaries had also decreased since 2011. One of the temporary changes presented by the report was the implementation of gender quotas, which led countries such as Rwanda and Bolivia to achieve more than 50% of female representation in their parliaments.
Commenting on this, Ritch stated: “Scotland needs both more powers to introduce quotas in the Scottish Parliament, and to use some of its current regulatory powers better to require public bodies to take action to enable women’s leadership.”
The full Engender report, entitled Sex & Power, can be accessed here