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Parliamentary debates and questions

S5W-02289: Mary Fee (West Scotland)

Scottish Labour

Date lodged: 2 September 2016

To ask the Scottish Government what action it is taking to tackle the occupational gender divide in the labour market.

Answered by: Jamie Hepburn 6 October 2016

We recognise that occupational segregation reinforces gender stereotypes, helps drive the gender pay gap and holds back women’s opportunity to thrive economically. It is also holding back our economy.

But good progress is being made. The numbers of passes by girls in STEM subjects at school has increased between 2007 and 2016. Between 2007 and 2016 the numbers of entries by girls to the main science Higher qualifications, including computing were up by 3%. The number of passes for girls in Higher chemistry and physics is up 8% and 10%, respectively. Passes by girls in biology are down 16.9% but this is in the context of a 62% increase in passes in human biology for girls.

We are tackling gender stereotyping in STEM at school through funding for the Institute of Physics Improving Gender Balance project and are investing up to £1.5 million over the next three academic years, through the Scottish Funding Council, in a programme of equality projects across Scottish colleges and universities. The Scottish Funding Council has published its Gender Action Plan to set out the actions they will undertake in collaboration with colleges, universities and other partners to address gender imbalances and significantly reduce gender gaps in college and undergraduate courses.

Addressing under-representation in our Modern Apprenticeship programme is also a key priority for the Scottish Government and Skills Development Scotland (SDS) to address, in partnership with industry and delivery partners. The Equalities Action Plan for Modern Apprenticeships in Scotland, published on 2 December 2015 includes specific improvement targets for MA participation by disabled people, minority ethnic groups, care leavers and gender balance. Improvement targets have been included for each group to be achieved by 2021. SDS will report on these annually.

We have committed to bring forward legislation on gender balance on public sector boards and we will continue to champion our Partnership for Change 50/50 by 2020 campaign, encouraging organisations from across the public, third and private sectors to make a voluntary commitment to work towards gender balance on their boards by 2020.

Our Programme for Government also contains ambitious commitments in support of women's equality, including creating a new Advisory Council for Women and Girls and a Returners project to enable women who have had a career break to re-enter the workforce.