Where are the women? Nearly 500 women are ‘missing’ from key positions of power in Scotland

New figures from Engender show that 471 women are ‘missing’ from key positions of power in Scotland.

In our new report: ‘Sex & Power in Scotland 2023’ published today, Engender charts the number of women in key decision-making positions and highlights the significant void that exists in women’s representation and distribution of power in Scotland.

The report, which examines a range of areas across public life – including politics, health, sport and media – paints a concerning picture. The report identified 3383 positions of power in Scotland, with only 1222 (just over a third) held by women. Men continue to hold two-thirds of positions of power in Scotland and were significantly over-represented in 33 of the 38 areas of public life examined - with only 5 areas demonstrating at least 50% of women in leadership positions. This is despite women making up 51% of Scotland’s population, 49% of its labour market, and girls routinely leaving school with higher levels of educational attainment on average.

Engender’s previous Sex & Power reports in 2017 and 2020 looked to track progress towards gender equality over time. Its 2023 research has found evidence of some improvement in areas including political institutions, within the health sector and limited areas across media and culture. However, the rate of change remains disappointingly slow. Women still account for only 27% of council leaders, 22% sheriffs, 26% of university principals, 18% of major newspaper editors and just 7% of CEO’s of Scotland’s top businesses.

On the continued lack of women’s representation within Scotland’s power structures, Catherine Murphy, Executive Director of Engender said:

“These positions of power hold huge sway in determining what our society and culture look like. They dictate who gets heard and who has a seat at the table when key decisions are made.These figures clearly show that how the world is shaped around us in Scotland- how resources are distributed, services designed and priorities identified- is still disproportionately decided upon by men. The fact that so many women are ‘missing’ from these positions of power means that major decision-making is taking place without women’s leadership and high-level input. The exclusion is even more pronounced for women from minority groups including women of colour and disabled women. Tracking who sits in positions of power is vital to shine a light on the extent of these inequalities and helps us better understand where priority action is needed. We urgently need a major increase in diverse women leading our institutions in Scotland. Government, Public Sector, Business and our Media and Culture sectors need to step up their efforts if we are to make meaningful progress, or we risk failing another generation of women.”

Read Sex & Power in Scotland 2023 online here.

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