Nicola Sturgeon to push for gender balance on public sector boards

Nicola Sturgeon chairs Forum meeting

Nicola Sturgeon will predict that Scotland is at a tipping point regarding gender equality as she commits to legislating for gender balance on public sector boards if re-elected next year.

Giving the keynote address at the Women 50:50 conference in Edinburgh on Thursday, the first minister will point to the Scottish parliament – where the three largest parties are led by women – and her own gender-balanced cabinet as evidence that social attitudes have progressed.

She will confirm that, if returned to Holyrood at next May’s Scottish parliamentary elections, a Scottish National party government will will bring forward legislation within a year to support gender balance on public boards, as well as challenging the private sector to match this.

Sturgeon will say: “Scotland is potentially at a tipping point in relation to gender equality. Social attitudes have progressed significantly here, as they are doing in many countries around the world.

“We currently have a Scottish parliament where the presiding officer, and the leaders of the three largest parties, are all female. We also have a gender balanced Cabinet.”

Noting that many public bodies have already committed to a voluntary pledge to reach 50/50 boards by 2020, she will add: “I firmly believe that we should embed the commitment to a more diverse and gender balanced board membership. So, following the passage of the Scotland bill, I can confirm that if re-elected the SNP will consult and bring forward legislation on gender balance in public sector boards in the first year of the next parliament.”

While the move will be widely welcomed, it only represents one of the the three demands of Women 50:50, a cross-party campaign launched in September 2014 to campaign for 50% representation of women in the Scottish parliament and in local councils as well as on public boards.

In a rare show of unity over the Scotland bill on Monday, both Labour and the SNP supported an amendment to devolve the ability to legislate for candidate quotas in local authority and parliamentary elections, which was defeated by 45 votes.

Last November, Sturgeon hailed her uncontested election as the first female first minster of Scotland as sending a positive message to girls and young women across the country that “the sky is the limit to what you can achieve”.

Powered by Guardian.co.ukThis article was written by Libby Brooks Scotland correspondent, for theguardian.com on Thursday 12th November 2015 00.01 Europe/Londonguardian.co.uk © Guardian News and Media Limited 2010