We are calling for collaborative action across the public, private and SME sectors to address the boardroom gender gap in Scotland’s listed trading companies.

The call comes in the wake of recent research showing that just 15% of listed company boardroom seats in Scotland are occupied by women, with only 9 female executives employed by those companies. This is well short of the UK target of one third and significantly below the Scottish Government aim of 50%.

Lynne Cadenhead Chair of Women’s Enterprise Scotland said, “These statistics are simply shameful and present a poor image of Scotland as a progressive nation and a place for women to fully realise their business potential. At the current rate of change it will take 70 years to achieve gender balance in the boardroom – that’s almost three generations. We know that there is plenty of support for gender equality in the Scottish business community and Women’s Enterprise Scotland is now calling for real, united action to achieve improved gender balance. We are asking the public, private and SME sectors to collaborate with us to develop and work on a concerted plan that will see Scotland tap into the talents of all of its people rather than a restricted section.”

She continued; “The time for talking is over. We need action and we need to work together to relegate the current statistics to the past and achieve a vibrant and fully inclusive business community. Initiatives such as junior boards which engage young people and women’s networks have already helped Scottish companies to reinvigorate existing boardrooms but this is just the start. Studies continue to show that more gender diverse boards provide better returns and diversity is a key enabler of innovation.”

Following a review of inequality in the boardroom, Sir Philip Hampton, Chair of GlaxoSmithKline recommended that women should occupy one-third of board positions by 2020. The Scottish Government has an aim of equal representation in boardrooms by 2020.

Women’s Enterprise Scotland is looking to collaborate with business leaders across Scotland to share knowledge and best practice. Businesses which have already broadened out their talent pipeline and improved boardroom diversity are invited to share their learning. WES is convening a male think tank to source best practice and bring about change, in addition to working with female role models throughout the Scottish business community. Specifically WES aims to improve gender balance across business boards, advisory boards, speaker selections for business events and commentators in the media.

The call by WES for collaborative action to address the boardroom gender gap has been welcomed by key figures in both the private and public sectors.

Malcolm Buchanan, Chair of Scotland Board, RBS said; “At RBS, we have a focus on developing our most talented staff in order to achieve the best results. More than a third of the RBS boardroom is women and we recognise the value which greater diversity brings to our business. Our goal of 30% of the bank’s top 5,000 roles being held by women has been reached and we are now seeking to achieve the same results for our top 600 roles. We are committed to increasing the numbers of our Women in Business managers to 500 across the UK and aim to be the bank that women will come to because we will support them to achieve their business aspirations. We look forward to continuing to collaborate with WES as we progress those commitments.”

Sandy Begbie, Chief People Officer, Standard Life, said; “At Standard Life, we have a fundamental belief that everyone deserves the opportunity to fulfil their potential in an inclusive workplace. This includes breaking down barriers to ensure women are represented at all levels of our organisation, including our Board. As part of this focus, the percentage of women in our talent pipeline has increased to 43% and we have an award winning Women’s Development Network. Three members of our Board are women and, for the last six years, around 30% of our non-executive Board directors have been female. We welcome the opportunity to further collaborate with organisations across Scotland to promote the value of a diverse workforce.”

Geoff Leask, CEO of Young Enterprise Scotland said; ““The participation by young women in our Company Programme as Directors of Young Enterprise Scotland companies is greater than that of their male counterparts and indeed the Company Director of the Year has been a female for the last two years. The desire by young females is present – it is about ensuring that the appropriate support is given to ensure the continuation and development of this talent”

Convenor of the Cross Party Group on Women’s Enterprise, Gillian Martin MSP said; “Scotland’s Economic Strategy sets out the Scottish Government’s purpose to create a more successful country, with opportunities for all of Scotland to flourish, through increasing sustainable economic growth. One of the four strategic areas of focus relates to Inclusive Growth, addressing long-standing barriers to equality and diversity in the labour market as an economic policy. Research consistently shows that diverse boards perform better, leading to more independence, innovation, good governance and improved financial performance. All public, private, and third sector organisations can commit to take action on gender inequality with the voluntary Partnership for Change commitment to achieve a 50/50 gender balance on boards by 2020.”

Women’s Enterprise Scotland offers a range of training courses aimed at supporting women to build their leadership potential and their networks. Topics include Boardroom Governance, Giving Evidence to Parliamentary Committees and Media Engagement. The organisation maintains databases of course attendees and works with Parliament, the media and boardroom recruiters to build a pipeline of accessible, skilled women. To find out more, contact us.

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