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GUEST POST: Mainstreaming ambition

Louise Macdonald, OBE, is the co-chair of the First Minister's National Advisory Council on Women and Girls. The focus of the Council this year is 'gender architecture', a key part of mainstreaming gender. To mark the launch of our report What Works for Women: improving gender mainstreaming in Scotland, we asked Louise to blog for us on the work of the council during 2020.

Making gender inequality a historical curiosity is an ambitious vision – but sadly a necessary one.

The First Minister’s National Advisory Council on Women and Girls was established by Nicola Sturgeon in 2017 to help achieve that – with the aim of offering her insight and advice on how to tackle gender inequality at a systemic level.

The issues that the members of our NACWG Circle raised at our inaugural event that year were not new – we listened carefully to what they told us and designed our initial three year strategy to strategically address these issues through a whole-systems lens.

Over the course of 2020 we have concentrated on the gender architecture in Scotland – that structure that has been designed to support women’s equality – and how it can be changed to embed an intersectional approach at the heart.

Each year we have built on the previous and this three year model was designed to kick start the systemic action that we believe will help to tip the scales of gender equality in the right direction. Attitude and culture change has been a common thread throughout all of our work, the same with policy coherence, and we have applied an intersectional lens to all aspects of our work since day one.

Over the course of 2020 we have concentrated on the gender architecture in Scotland – that structure that has been designed to support women’s equality – and how it can be changed to embed an intersectional approach at the heart. We have heard how people from all cross sectors of society, from grass roots, third sector, public sector and business that the very fact that intersectionality isn’t hardwired into the fabric of our systems renders it unacknowledged in the face of our day to day processes – unless you make a deliberate step to include it - and to do that you need to be aware of it in the first place. We have not met any resistance to the need for action – however, it was crystal clear to us how the general lack of awareness perpetuates the inequality and contributes to the infamous “implementation gap” between policy and practice.

The NACWG’s priority from the beginning has been to listen and throughout 2020 we have heard from cross sectors of society, particularly those who experience multiple and overlapping discrimination. They have been clear that in order to make real, sustainable change and ensure a gender architecture that works for all women and girls, we must reform and strengthen it. The systems in place that are there to support women and girls and equality fall short in too many places – often meaning that the intersections are ignored because women have been homogenised. It has also been interesting to explore how often the decision makers within these systems are unaware of how the inequality is perpetuated and the role that they (or their aspect of the system) have in that process.

We are now finalising our report and recommendations for the First Minister, so watch this space. Let’s all continue to be ambitious and to have hope that we will achieve the goal of gender inequality as a historic curiosity – because we must.

Guest posts do not necessarily reflect the views of Engender, and all language used is the author's own. Bloggers have received some editorial support from Engender, and may have received a fee from our commissioning pot. We aim for our blog to reflect a range of feminist viewpoints, and offer a commissioning pot to ensure that women do not have to offer their time or words for free.

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