We are all affected by gender inequality. The evidence is clear that everyone benefits from women being equal partners in society. But there will be examples in your life and workplace where gender inequality has had an impact on you or your mother, sister or daughter.
These women will not always talk about their experiences but will have everyday examples that have been shrugged off – condoned by society, often without malice, as “that’s the way it is”. Gender inequality in the workplace comes in many forms. How can we take forward the encouraging work around gender-balanced shortlists in recruitment? Not everyone agrees this is an appropriate or necessary intervention. Women now make up more than 25 per cent of FTSE 100 boards in the UK but fewer than five per cent of CEOs are women. Are we encouraging girls and young women into science and engineering careers where women make up less than 20 per cent of the workforce?
What about shared maternity/paternity leave – how easy are we making this for employees? How many companies have a specific menopause policy? We need to celebrate the positive changes that are happening as well as highlighting areas where improvements are needed.
This is exactly why the Scottish Government has set up the First Minister’s National Advisory Council on Women and Girls (NACWG). This independent council has an all-women membership from diverse backgrounds and aims to bring about equality for women and girls.
As a member of NACWG and the first female Chief Medical Officer in Scotland, I aspire to enable all women and girls to reach their potential. NACWG reports directly to the First Minister, producing an annual report of recommendations. The first report in 2018 made 11 recommendations on the theme of “Attitudes and Culture Change” across public life, work and learning systems. The Scottish Government has committed to adopting these recommendations, a tangible step towards making gender inequality a historical curiosity in Scotland.
This year NACWG is focusing on “policy coherence” – how policies are made and do they work for women and girls. I was delighted that in this year’s Programme for Government, there were several ‘gender balancing’ commitments which will lead to real change.
A women’s health plan will be drawn up which will tackle inequalities in health outcomes, not just in issues which only affect women, such as endometriosis and access to post-natal contraception, but also greater awareness of the menopause for employers and wider society. The plan will also address rectifying higher death rates and poorer quality of life for women with heart disease.
In the workplace, there will be continued action to address the gender pay gap, and there will be investment to help more women return to work after a career break, particularly in sectors where women are under-represented. NACWG has established a group of over 750 supportive allies, known as the Circle, which includes people across a wide spectrum of backgrounds and gender identities. Over the year the Circle and NACWG meet to share experiences and to shape the recommendations for the First Minister.
We also put a “spotlight” on issues that affect women and girls. The current spotlight is on sport, so please get involved in the conversation. You can join our Circle, engage on Twitter @NACWGScot and find out more on our website: onescotland.org/equality-themes/advisory-council-women-girls.
We want to hear from you about how we can ensure Scotland is a leading nation on gender equality. Let’s use this exciting opportunity for our collective voices to be heard – together we are #GenerationEqual.