Public boards equality law passes first hurdle

Written by Liam Kirkaldy on 30 November 2017 in News

The Gender Representation on Public Boards (Scotland) Bill passes through stage one debate in the Scottish Parliament after receiving support from a majority of MSPs

The Gender Representation on Public Boards (Scotland) Bill has passed through a stage one debate in the Scottish Parliament after receiving support from a majority of MSPs.  

The bill, which sets an objective for public boards to ensure that 50 per cent of their non-executive members are women, was backed by 71 MSPs, with 28 voting against.

As well as setting gender targets, the legislation would also require public boards to take steps to encourage women to apply to become members.

The bill was part of the Programme for Government, announced at the start of this parliamentary term. Only the Conservatives voted against the bill passing through stage one.

Equalities Secretary Angela Constance said: “At its heart this bill is equality for women. It is about this Parliament using the powers that it has to deliver a fairer, more equal Scotland.

“Women’s voices need to be heard, and they need to shape the decisions that are made in Scotland’s boardrooms and impact on our services. Scotland’s public bodies, colleges and universities are responsible for significant sums of public money and oversee and deliver public services which touch on all aspects of people’s lives.

“It’s also really important that we continue our focus on encouraging women to apply for these positions in the first place. We have made much progress increasing the numbers of women on public boards from 35 per cent in 2007 to 45 per cent today. But we cannot be complacent and this legislation will ensure we cannot stall or regress that progress.

“Positive action and appointing on merit are not mutually exclusive. The primary objective here is still to make sure we are attracting the most diverse, talented people to Scotland’s public boards

“If passed, this bill will make Scotland the only country in the United Kingdom with a statutory gender representation objective for public boards – but we are one of many international examples. This is an important step on our journey towards gender equality in Scotland.”

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