Scottish Parliament report finds significant gender imbalance of witnesses to parliamentary committees

Written by Jenni Davidson on 28 February 2018 in News

The Scottish Parliament Conveners Group has put forward proposals to get more women to give evidence

There is a significant gender imbalance in witnesses giving evidence to Holyrood committees, a new report published by the Scottish Parliament has found.

The report shows that 63 per cent of the witnesses at formal committee meetings in 2015/16 were men, while women make up only 37 per cent of witnesses to parliamentary committees.

However, the report also found an improvement, with a 12.3 percentage point increase in the number of women giving evidence at committees since the parliament began in 1999, when only 25 per cent of witnesses were female.  

The percentage varies from committee to committee and the report acknowledges that other people will have been consulted in more informal sessions.

As a result of the report, the Scottish Parliament’s Conveners Group has made an action plan to ensure the balance of witnesses at Scottish Parliament committees are more reflective of wider society.

The Conveners Group agreed to a number of steps including improving data capture and reporting mechanisms to ensure greater transparency around the diversity of those giving evidence as well as expanding the data collected to include other aspects of committee work such as fact finding visits and informal meetings.

There will also be additional guidance and training for committees, as well as for external organisations and training for potential witnesses, to encourage more women to come forward to give evidence.

Chair of the Conveners Group and Deputy Presiding Officer Christine Grahame said: “As a convener for many years myself, I know the significant effort committees put into ensuring they hear from a broad range of voices and opinions as they scrutinise legislation and government policy. 

“That effort has led to substantial progress since 1999, including in relation to improving gender diversity of witnesses.

“That is why the Conveners Group has agreed a series of measures which are designed to make further improvements during the course of this session.”

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