A majority of members on Holyrood’s Equalities and Human Rights Committee have backed the general principles of the Gender Representation on Public Boards Bill, as it reports on its findings from Stage 1 scrutiny.
The Bill as drafted sets a ‘gender representation objective’ for public boards to have 50% women non-executive members by 2022. The Bill also allows recruiters to give preference to the candidate who would help a board achieve its gender representation objective in cases where male and female candidates are equally qualified.
The Committee report makes a number of recommendations to strengthen the Bill. These include changes around ensuring the Bill helps trans women, creating a robust reporting mechanism so the Bill holds those appointing people to boards accountable, and improving the guidance available to public bodies.
The Committee will also continue to make the case for other protected characteristics to benefit from similar measures. Additionally, it is seeking reassurances from the Scottish Government that this law will not have any unintended consequences for other protected characteristics.
Commenting on the report’s publication, Committee Convener Christina McKelvie MSP, said:
“A majority of the Committee support putting in legal measures to protect and embed the progress so far made towards gender equality on public boards.
“We all know how important it is to ensure that Scottish public life reflects the society we seek to serve. We heard convincing evidence as we looked at this Bill that persuaded us that this proposed law will be a useful tool in creating a more equal Scotland.”
Specific recommendations made in the report include:
- Ensuring that we do not have unnecessary duplication in the guidance that is created – if the law is to be effective, it needs to be easily understood and accessible. The many pieces of inter-related guidance must be able to sit together.
- Creating a meaningful monitoring and reporting mechanism to ensure action is taken, and continues, on progress towards creating gender equal boards.
- To ensure the language in the Bill is inclusive of trans people, the term “women” must be inclusive of trans people who identify as women, including those who do not hold a gender recognition certificate, and not those who identify as male or non-binary.
Annie Wells MSP and Jamie Greene MSP dissented from the overall report, disagreeing with the general principles of the Bill.
More information on the inquiry is available on the Committee website.