SLCC Comments on Draft Gender Representation on Public Boards Bill

01/02/2017

The SLCC has welcomed the Scottish Government’s Draft Gender Representation on Public Boards (Scotland) Bill, and made a number of comments to promote further discussion.

The Draft Bill includes measures to address the current lack of representation of women in public boards in Scotland.  The SLCC is named in the draft Bill as an organisation which will need to comply with it.  In addition to welcoming the Draft Bill, the SLCC have three issues that may need further consideration.

These include: possible unintended consequences of the Bill where specialist board roles are concerned; the impact on wider board diversity and concerns relating to the recording of gender identity.

SLCC Chief Executive Neil Stevenson commented, “Our own Board is currently comprised of seven women and two men.  Once the Bill passes into law it means the next vacant seat would need to be more actively advertised to men, and in a tie-break Ministers would need to appoint a man.  This would be positive in balancing our board, but others may see it as counterintuitive that that the key role as chair will always be gender focussed simply due the statutory cycle of appointments for our organisation.  It’s useful to discuss if that is the intention of this new law.”

“As an organisation focussed on equality and diversity we’re also concerned at the binary definition of gender in the Act.  We know the Scottish Government, in its Programme for Government for 2016/17, is committed to a consultation on a ‘Gender Recognition Act’ which may well widen options for legal gender recognition (as has already been done in other countries such as Australia, Denmark and New Zealand).  This Bill could force organisations to categorise individuals into a binary gender, potentially against their express will, in order to asses the composition of their boards.  It would seem hugely desirable to avoid that if at all possible, whilst still finding a way to meet the other policy aims of the draft Bill.  The SLCC would prefer to see the diversity of gender expression respected and, indeed, celebrated.”

“We hope our contribution is useful in supporting this important work and in refining the final version of the Bill.” 

Read the SLCC's consultation response.

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