Ian Stewart: gender balance is a work in progress

Achieving gender parity won't happen overnight. There is no doubt that it is a top priority '“ everyone who's anyone is joining in the conversation '“ but work is still required to make Scotland a leader in equality and diversity.We know that having a fair split of men and women from different cultural backgrounds is the key to unlocking innovation and creativity in the workplace and we are well on the road to achieving just that, but to truly drive and deliver that change, the situation is in our hands.

The latest edition of Vision Scotland.
The latest edition of Vision Scotland.

It is up to us as businessmen and women to take the actions necessary to create for Scotland the future we want to see.

When I joined The Scotsman in the 1990s there were several women working in the newsroom, but the tales of the recent past were of hard-drinking males.

It was out of this that the idea was born to mark International Women’s Day by hijacking the iconic Scotsman masthead and creating The Scotswoman.

We did it in 1995 to give voice to a woman’s perspective and again last March, and in the intervening years times have certainly changed; at this newspaper in any case more than half of the departments are headed by women.

Today if I look around the newsroom there can be many more women than men on duty, but it seems my own industry is not the norm.

Take the tech sector where only 18 per cent of the workforce are women. There is no one right answer to closing that gap and there is no single root cause for such blatant gender imbalance.

In this issue of Vision Scotland our writers look at the plans in place to combat the lack of diversity not just in the digital sphere but in financial services, construction and professional services.

One innovative solution put forward by Bevis Watts, managing director of Triodos Bank, is to adopt a supply chain approach, recruiting women at every level of the business and developing them so that they have the same opportunities to progress to senior roles.

Hewlett Packard’s Evelyn Walker makes the point that achieving that balance needs to start with education at an early age.

To succeed in any endeavour hard work and a willingness to learn is required.

That’s certainly the message from Eilidh Wiseman, the second female president of the Law Society of Scotland. To climb the career ladder in the law, regardless of gender, it’s a case of continuous study, education and development.

Like Girl Geek Scotland, which is encouraging the next generation not to discount science, technology, maths and engineering as career or degree choices, the Law Society’s Street Law programme aims to inspire young minds about how the law is relevant to them in everyday life.

A number of features in this magazine tackle the issues surrounding both education and the gender divide, while others look at areas such as tourism where Scotland is already successful, but there is always room for improvement.

It is not only equality between the sexes which is important: Scotland has a long tradition of embracing social conscience in all its forms.

We need to look at equality in its widest sense and embrace diversity.

This article appears in the SPRING 2017 edition of Vision Scotland.