Scottish women missing in action: EHRC report indicates a lack of women in top jobs

17th August 2011

A new report, published today by the EHRC Scotland, shows a continuing trend of women being passed over for top jobs in Scotland.

Sex & Power 2011 is an index of women in positions of power and influence across the public and private sector.  Figures from the report reveal that, while women are graduating from university in increasing numbers and achieve better degree results than men, and despite level pegging with men in their twenties, they are not entering management ranks at the same rate, and many remain trapped in the layer below senior management.  

The report looked at 14 occupational categories in Scotland and revealed that, while the number of women in some senior posts has increased since 2007/8, there are still areas where there are significant gaps. 

To highlight the scale of the challenge, the Commission has calculated the women ‘missing’ from senior positions in Scotland.

Women 'missing'* from senior positions in Scotland include:

  • 109 missing from 614 public appointments
  • 68 missing from the 356 head teachers of secondary schools
  • 19 missing from the 129 Members of the Scottish Parliament

The index also shows that:

  • Of Scotland’s 27 Senior Police Officers, only 4 are women
  • Of Scotland’s 32 local authority council leaders, only 3 are women. 
  • The proportion of women holding public appointments in 2011 is even less  than it was in 2003.  

Some of the reasons for these gaps include:

  • Outdated working patterns and inflexible organisations
  • Part time work remaining undervalued
  • Migration away from corporate careers – women are moving into self  employment faster than they are moving into senior management roles,  suggesting that women are seeking alternate ways to work

Occupational categories which have seen an increase in the number of women in positions of power include health service chief executives, university principals and local authority chief executives.  However, some increases have been very small - for example, with Ministers in the Scottish Government, the increase is less than one percentage point.

So while the number of women in some senior posts has increased since 2007/08, overall figures show that progress regularly stalls or even reverses in other sectors. 
Kaliani Lyle, Scotland Commissioner for the Equality and Human Rights Commission, said:

'Young women clearly have aspirations.  They are graduating from university in increasing numbers and their academic qualifications are better than those of men.  Talented, educated young women are flooding the marketplace at graduate level. But have a look a few years down the line.   Many have disappeared from the paid workforce or become trapped in the layer below senior management.  Consequently, the higher ranks in many organisations are still dominated by men, resulting in an avoidable loss of talent.

The high numbers of ‘missing women’ reflect barriers in attitudes and working practices that need to be addressed.  We cannot afford to marginalise or reject talented people simply because working practices are outdated or inflexible, or traditional attitudes to gender roles are accepted without question. If Scotland is to have a strong and fair economic recovery, then we have to ensure we unlock women’s talent in the work place.


Download a copy of the report here

Find further information on Sex and Power, including the 2008 report, here.

For more information please contact the Equality and Human Rights Commission Media Office on 0141 228 5979/5938 or on 07970 541369.

For general enquiries please contact the Commission’s national helpline: England 0845 604 6610, Scotland 0845 604 5510 or Wales 0845 604 8810.

Notes to editors:

*Missing women equal half the total number of posts minus the number of posts held by women

  • The Equality and Human Rights Commission is a statutory body established under the Equality Act 2006, which took over the responsibilities of Commission for Racial Equality, Disability Rights Commission and Equal Opportunities Commission.
  • The Equality and Human Rights Commission is the independent advocate for equality and human rights in Britain. It aims to reduce inequality, eliminate discrimination, strengthen good relations between people, and promote and protect human rights.
  • The Equality and Human Rights Commission enforces equality legislation on age, disability, gender, race, religion or belief, sexual orientation or transgender status, and encourage compliance with the Human Rights Act. It will also give advice and guidance to businesses, the voluntary and public sectors, and to individuals.



Last Updated: 16 Aug 2011