Proposals that would force public bodies to have equal numbers of men and women on their boards will help “shatter the glass ceiling once and for all”, equalities secretary Angela Constance has said.
Ms Constance made the comments as she launched a Scottish Government consultation on plans to legislate for a 50/50 gender split on the boards of public bodies.
She said “real progress” had been made to make ministerial appointments to boards more equal, but the Gender Representation on Public Boards (Scotland) Bill would be used to make changes in non-executive membership.
Public organisations would also be compelled to encourage applications from either men or women, depending on which gender is under-represented on their board.
Ms Constance said the legislation was being planned because “despite making up 51 per cent of the population, women continue to be under-represented in public life”.
She launched the consultation at the Falkirk Wheel, operated by Scottish Canals, which has a 50/50 split between men and women on its board and management team.
Nicola Sturgeon made gender equality a priority of her leadership and has set an example by appointing a Cabinet with a 50:50 split between men and women.
Ms Constance said: “This bill is a significant step forward in making sure that women are properly represented in senior and decision-making positions across Scotland, helping to shatter the glass ceiling once and for all.
“Real progress has been made over the last parliamentary term to improve the gender balance of ministerial appointments to public boards, but we won’t rest on our laurels. We must ensure that we maintain the progress that has been made and keep moving forward.
“Scottish Canals is an excellent example of a public body with a gender-balanced board and I believe this can and should be the norm for all public bodies in Scotland.
“I’m keen to hear views on this bill and would encourage people to respond to the proposals it makes.”
Andrew Thin, chairman of Scottish Canals, said: “We are delighted to support the launch of the Scottish Government’s consultation into equality and gender balance. Scottish Canals benefits greatly from a diverse workforce, from the bank side to the boardroom, and this is vitally important as we seek to do more with these valuable public assets and ensure they deliver maximum value.”