Holyrood set to pass new legislation on gender representation

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New legislation aimed at ensuring women make up at least half the board members for all public authorities is expected to be approved by Holyrood.

MSPs at the Scottish Parliament are due to vote on the Gender Representation on Public Boards (Scotland) Bill this afternoon.

If passed the legislation will make Scotland the only part of the UK with a statutory target for the proportion of women on public boards, setting the target of having females make up a minimum of 50% of non-executive members by 2022.

It would apply to colleges, universities and some public bodies including health boards, enterprise agencies, the Scottish Police Authority and the Scottish Fire and Rescue Service.

Speaking ahead of a Holyrood debate, Equalities Secretary Angela Constance said: “Women make up 51% of our population, but they are under-represented in decision-making positions, including in the boardroom. This is not acceptable and in 2018, it quite simply should not be the case.

“The Gender Representation on Public Boards (Scotland) Bill seeks to redress the under-representation of women on public boards, ensuring that women’s voices are heard where and when it matters and shape the decisions that are made in boardrooms and impact on our services.

“If passed, this bill will make Scotland the only country in the United Kingdom with a statutory gender representation objective for public boards. This is an important step on our journey towards gender equality, towards creating a fairer Scotland, and towards shattering the glass ceiling once and for all.”

Campaign group Women 50:50 has backed the legislation, with chair and co-founder Talat Yaqoob stating: “Public boards play a huge role in the delivery of public services, which are disproportionately used by women, as such, it is only right that women should make up a fair share of the decision makers.

“We hope all MSPs see the value of this bill and the need to eradicate institutionalised barriers to women’s participation. If this is passed, we will be pushing for it to be implemented in a way that can ensure true representation of the diverse women in Scotland and ensure public boards are held to account on their membership. Without this focus, the progress we seek on gender equality will not be achieved.”

Emma Ritch, executive director at Engender, stressed it was also “crucial that our public boards in Scotland include women from different socioeconomic backgrounds, black and minority ethnic women, and lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender women”.

She stated: “We look forward to continuing our work with Scottish Government, and third sector partners to increase the number of women around decision-making tables in Scotland.”

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