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09 April 2015
University chairs commit to greater gender balance

University chairs commit to greater gender balance

The governing bodies of Scotland’s 18 higher education institutions will contain at least 40 per cent women among their independent members, the body who represents the chairs has announced.

Universities Scotland, which is made up of the chairs of court from the 18 institutions, say the move will bring Scottish universities into line with the best practice in other European countries.

The commitment is to achieve a minimum of 40 per cent of women and 40 per cent of men on the governing body, with the remaining 20 per cent of either gender. It applies to the board’s independent members, but Universities Scotland said it hoped staff and student representatives would make a similar commitment.

It said the gender balance could be achieved through transparent and targeted advertising of vacancies, and progress against the commitment will be reviewed in 2018.

Professor Pete Downes, Convener of Universities Scotland and Principal at the University of Dundee said: “This is a very positive step. The 40:40:20 approach to gender balance gives institutions some flexibility to ensure we continue to appoint the strongest candidates to what are strategically important roles. This is important for good governance, for the candidates themselves and to ensure that our universities remain competitive.”

Cabinet Secretary for Fair Work, Skills and Training Roseanna Cunningham welcomed the commitment, which she described as a “significant step” towards the Scottish Government’s target of a 50:50 gender split on public, private and third sector boards by 2020.

“A fair gender balance on boards leads to better decision making and stronger businesses and ties in with our commitment to promoting equality and social justice. It is great to see universities take the lead on this issue and we would encourage other organisations to follow their example,” she said.

Women currently comprise 32 per cent of all independent members across the boards of Scotland’s Universities.

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