Womenomics: The Economic Case for Equalities
In a career spanning over thirty years in both the private and public sectors, I have witnessed very slow progress on the issues and challenges faced by women in our careers and caring roles. This view is shared by many others, both men and woman, across Scotland. We all increasingly recognise the need to change attitudes, culture and workplace practices if we are to unlock the full economic potential and talent of our female workforce.
Last year I completed a Review, commissioned by the UK Government Scotland Office, that examined the “Role and Contribution of Woman to the Scottish Economy”. The background to the Review was the need for a wider and more detailed understanding of the issues and challenges that confront women in the workplace and in starting businesses. The evidence base across a range of measures was startling. In Scotland, we have an average pay gap of 17% across male and female earnings. In the construction sector it is 23% rising to over 40% in legal and professional services. On average women earn 85p for every £1 a man takes home, with even greater differences in earnings linked to motherhood and for women over 50 years old. And gender also impacts those in self-employment. If women were to set up businesses at the same rate as men, this would add £13bn to the Scottish economy or the equivalent of 100,000 new businesses.
Over the last twelve months in Scotland, we have made significant progress against a number of actions identified in the Sawers Review. This has included the establishment of a joint Ministerial Working Group on equalities, the introduction of transparency in pay gap reporting and an increase in the number of women on private and public Boards.
Last week we celebrated “Modern Apprenticeships” and this week we celebrate “International Women’s Day” and we are making significant progress in attracting more young women into STEM studies and careers, so it is right that we should take time to applaud our progress over the last twelve months. But with only 2% of engineering apprentices, 3% of chartered civil engineers and 10% of senior managers in science, engineering and technology professions female, the measures indicate we still have some way to go to deliver balanced economic growth for the economy, for women and for Scotland.
Professor Lesley Sawers, is Executive Chair of GenAnalytics Ltd, a people science consultancy using data, analytics and insights to improve business and organisational performance linked to equalities and diversity. firstname.lastname@example.org
(amended version of this article was published in the “Aberdeen Press and Journal” on 4 March 2016)