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gender balance

Gender Balance in Public Bodies

A Scottish Parliament committee is seeking your views on improving the gender balance on public bodies.

Public bodies are for example: the Scottish Police Authority, the Scottish Fire and Rescue Service, health boards, enterprise agencies, colleges and universities.

NHS Orkney Health Board consists of nine non-executive members and five executive members.

“The non-executive members are lay people who are invited to sit on the Board by the Cabinet Secretary for Health and Sport. These people generally have other jobs but they receive some remuneration for activities involving their Health Board duties. The Executive Members are all senior managers.”

In Orkney 3 out of 5 executive members are female and 3 out of 9 non-executive members are female.

In Scotland as a whole women make up around 42% of public boards, but are 51.5% of the Scottish population.

A Gender representation Bill is currently going through the committee stage of the Scottish Parliament and the Equalities and Human Rights Committee would like your contributions.
Convener of the committee, Christina McKelvie MSP, said:

“Improving female representation in the boardroom of public bodies, including organisations such as the Scottish Police Authority, our colleges and universities and over 100 other public bodies, is something we would broadly support.”

“But we want to know if this Bill could be improved or strengthened in any way or if changes are needed. Does the Bill have sufficient teeth? Are quotas the right way to go?”

Key questions the Committee is asking include:

  • Does the Bill go far enough – should we also look to legislate for other protected characteristics?
  • What would the impact be on people applying for an appointment as a non-executive member of a public board? And the impact on recruitment.
  • The Bill requires public boards to report on the operation of the Act, what should any reporting requirements cover and why?
  • Whether there should be penalties for non-compliance with the Bill and what these should be.


You can send your views by—
Emailing  at:
Writing to : Equalities and Human Rights Committee
Room T3.40
Scottish Parliament
Edinburgh EH99 1SP

Telephone: 0131 348 5223 or 0131 348 6040
Reporter: Fiona Grahame

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3 replies »

  1. Oh dear. I got into bother, years ago for what I have to say about this, and I’ll probably get into bother again, but…….I can’t let that stop me saying what I believe to be so. Here goes…….
    It was probably in the mid-1980’s. I was a member of the Labour Party – had always voted Labour, and been a member for more years than I care to remember! I resigned when they became The New Tory Party – that’s another rant.
    I was a member, and went along to meetings of the local group. One of the women there, wanted to set up a ‘Women’s Section’ within the group. She presumed that I would be very much for it, as she knew me and knew how I am – generally bolshie – for equality etcetc. She was kind-of stunned when I said no – I thought it was not a good idea. And this is why:-

    It may be naive of me, to see it this way this, but……… should be about not seeing what gender or colour or anything else someone is, but about their ability to do whatever the job is, that they are proposing to do.
    There was a bit of a trend at the time, for Black Groups and Women’s groups. I didn’t go along with it. To me, it meant more division, less unity. It was another way of looking at folk for what they were, physically, rather than their ability, or otherwise. I see it possibley meaning that folk who actually weren’t fit for the work, getting into a position, because of some outward characteristic which fitted with quotas.
    And, from what I could see, when this kind of approach was put into practice, it still meant that pushy people got there, instead of quiet folk. Still not looking at ability, but going by what’s presented.
    I still believe this to be the case.
    This isn’t a personal gripe of mine, as I am not a quiet person who gets over-looked – far from it, and have used that, in the past, to support the quiet ones, when needed.
    I would hope that, some day, people will actually be chosen by ability only. I do realize that this isn’t the case, now, and that much work still needs to be done on this. Certain types of people are still chosen before others, because of pre-conceptions and bias. I even include in this – charm – a lot of charming people get into positions of power that they maybe shouldn’t be in, simply because they can charm. I distrust charm.
    I risk rambling here. I will appear naive, to some. I don’t think I am, I am just hopeful.
    I’m hopeful that, one day, people will be chosen for office, for jobs, for anything you care to mention, on their abilities, not external appearance, or extraneous trappings.
    And yes, I remember that Martin Luther King began his speech with ‘I have a dream” – and America got a very good President who happened to be brown. Now they have a strange creature who is a colour un-known to anthropologists, and who is crazy.
    So, the wheel turns. But, one day, in Britain (whatever that might consist of when this comes about) folk will simply be chosen on ability and nothing else.
    End of ramble – and now I wait for someone to have a go at me.
    So it goes.
    I’ll send this to the consultancy thingy – I don’t think it will make a ha’pporth of difference, as that particular wheel still has a long way to roll, relentlessly on.
    Much box-ticking will happen, and a report will be done. And filed away.
    How do I manage to be naive and cynical at the same time? I observe, that’s how.

    • Team building research has found that teams become weak if people only choose those for their team people they like or can identify with. So it happens in interviews that the successful candidate is not often the best for the job but the one those doing the interview are most similar to. This means you don’t get a spread of skills, expertise, ideas and backgrounds which would enrich an organisation but you end up with a bunch of people that all agree with one another.

      • Sounds familiar!!

        Oh, and, of course, there will be meetings, lots of meetings, and meetings about the meetings.

        Here’s another tale –

        Years ago, I worked in the Civil Service. The office where I worked, was told that it had to fill a quota for ‘disabled’ people working there. Seriously, they were told that they had to do so. It was a small office, so the quota was only one. There were no ‘disabled’ people working there, and no jobs needed to be created, which this disabled person might, possibly do. So, my boss put me down as the disabled quota, because I have asthma. I wasn’t too pleased, as I didn’t see myself as being ‘disabled’ – I saw myself as having asthma, and dealing with it. Admittedly, there were jobs which I’d had interviews for, only to find that I couldn’t possibly attempt to do them, because of the asthma, but I just thought “Tough” – just how it is, and looked for work which I could do.
        I don’t know what they did, when I left – did they go out trawling for someone with eczema? Though, eczema isn’t as easy for co-workers to deal with, as asthma. Before someone pounces on me for that – I’m being sarcastic or satirical, or whatever it is.
        The point I’m trying to make is…………..Whatever the appearance of a person, or their perceived ‘abilities’ or ‘disabilities’ might be, what should, when it comes down to it, matter, is if they will be suitable, or ‘able’ to do the job.
        And, yes, all too often it depends on the pre-conceptions and ‘comfort-zone’ of the folk doing the interview.
        What’s needed, is a big shift in how we view each other, and ourselves, and our application of this, when choosing who should fill posts in the workplace. Not enforced placing based on fixed quotas – placing because the person is the right person to be there.
        Simple enough – wouldn’t you think?

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