SMASHING THE GLASS ceiling women face to “smithereens” is an important part of tackling inequality, Scotland’s new First Minister has said.
Nicola Sturgeon, who is the first female to take on the top job in Scottish politics, pledged she would work to “ensure there are no limits on women’s ambitions”.
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Since becoming First Minister, Nicola Sturgeon has made addressing inequality a key focus of her administration, with a pledge to increase free childcare if she is in power after the 2016 Holyrood elections and a challenge to businesses and others to ensure half of their board members are female.
Meanwhile, her cabinet team is the first in Scotland to have a 50/50 gender balance between men and women.
The new SNP leader also wants more women in the party to consider getting into frontline politics.
She will urge female nationalists to play a greater part when she addresses the SNP’s second annual women’s conference in Ayr today.
She said: “Throughout its history, strong women have played an important role in shaping the SNP - Margo MacDonald, Winnie Ewing and Margaret Ewing are just a few of the women who have helped the party become the social democratic force for change that we are today.
“As First Minister, tackling inequality is at the heart of all I do. Smashing the gender glass ceiling to smithereens is an important part of making progress.”
Ms Sturgeon stressed: “My simple message to girls and women across Scotland is this: if you are good enough and work hard enough, you can achieve anything. As First Minister I will work to ensure there are no limits on women’s ambitions.
“I am delighted to be attending the 2nd annual SNP women’s conference and will take the opportunity to encourage more of our members to consider getting into front-line politics.
“In my first week as First Minister I took action to appoint Scotland’s first-ever 50/50 gender balanced cabinet - a move the UN has called on others to emulate, branding it a ‘role-model cabinet’.
“In this week’s programme for government I outlined further steps that will help us on our way to becoming a more equal society.
“Our new Scottish Business Pledge will invite companies to commit to extend payment of the living wage - a move that will benefit women and build on progress made since the SNP introduced the Living Wage.
“Our 50/50 by 2020 pledge will challenge all public, private and third-sector bodies to commit to take action on gender equality with a pledge to get a 50/50 gender split on boards by 2020.
“I also underlined our continuing commitment to major expansion of childcare, a move that will help more parents - especially women - back into work after having children.”
Ms Sturgeon continued: “The SNP in government has acted to expand childcare hours - with provision for three and four-year-olds up 45% since 2007, saving families up to £707 per child.
“From August next year, all three, four and eligible two-year-olds will receive 16 hours a week of childcare hours.
“Next year we’ll start planning to ensure that we can deliver on our commitment to double the number of hours of free childcare from 16 to 30 hours per week by the end of the next parliament if we are re-elected.”
A Scottish Labour spokesman said: “Women across Scotland want real solutions to the problems they are facing in their lives - that is why they overwhelmingly rejected Nicola Sturgeon’s proposals for independence.
“Next year women face a choice between five more years of a Tory government or a Labour government that will improve their lives and their families’ lives.
“Labour will guarantee more childcare for working mums and better pay for low-paid women by incentivising companies to pay the living wage.
“We’ll end the scandal that means 5,000 women a year in Scotland returning from maternity leave don’t have a job to go back to because of discrimination.
“We’ll use the new powers devolved to the Scottish Parliament to scrap tribunal fees to give more women access to justice. This is the real change that women across Scotland expect.”
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