International Women’s Day – did Scots women have anything to celebrate?


By Hazel Lewry

International Women’s Day was on March 8th, so it is appropriate to look at the issue of UK gender equality in the run up to the independence referendum.  Details in the polls show women rather more likely to support the status quo, the Union, than men.  As a group women are perhaps more inclined to be conservative – with a small c – than men.

Politicians of a Union persuasion are constantly telling us that the UK is a shining beacon, a land of milk and honey that others aspire to.  From a woman’s perspective it is worth examining where London rule has positioned some 50% of the Scots population with respect to our counterparts in other nations.

With the exception of childbirth, which can be a rather deadly and gender specific occupation, other issues like right to choose, being a mother or other inherently female items are not included here except to state that no area investigated showed being a woman in the UK was ranked in the global top 10.  That’s a shameful state of affairs.

In times of uncertainty it’s good to know there are high paying high skilled jobs available, and that in the UK women have an opportunity to compete for them, ideally an equal opportunity. Sadly in the UK women rank well down the world table in their chances of landing one of these jobs, in breaking through the corporate glass gender ceiling.  The UK is in fact some 35 spots below even Jamaica.

There was much ado about nothing recently, though much ado was made of it.  This was the number of women in prominence in the Labour party, gained largely through affirmative action.  Most women will tell you bluntly they don’t want affirmative action, just the chance to get the job if they’re the best candidate.  Thailand had the most women in senior political positions; the UK after its discriminatory policies didn’t even make the top 20 list.

Continuing with the subject of women in politics, even after the campaign to promote women in the UK, politics in the British sphere still lagged even the Central African Republic of Rwanda by some 45 places in the world table.  Predominantly Muslim countries like the United Arab Emirates or Pakistan have or have had better female political representation.

The best place for a woman with respect to economic participation is the Bahamas, again the UK as a whole didn’t even make the top 20.

Women’s literacy isn’t very well served by the UK and its inglorious institutions either.  Lesotho was number one for female literacy according to the Guardian, 95% of women can competently read and write, a significantly higher percentage than the men.  The UK didn’t even make it into the top 20 again.  In overall literacy the UK is in 39th place according to the CIA fact-book, behind even central Caribbean nations like Barbados or the predominantly Inuit nation of Greenland. We must do better.

Education is closely tied to literacy rates; it comes as no surprise that a woman in the UK stands some 35 places in the world table below her equal in Qatar, should her dream be one of attending University.

One surprising fact, the recognised best place to be a woman is a tiny nation so belittled and disparaged by the UK establishment that it was actually placed on a list of terrorist nations. Iceland came in at number 1 for overall gender equality with the London-centric UK at a disgraceful 16th position on a downwards trend.

Sweden favoured women in artistic fields, going so far as to require film grants to be divided evenly between men and women, the Swedes even introduced a quota system.  This does raise humorous issues of meeting the gender balance in the adaption of books like “Little Women”.  The UK averages a 91% to 9% disparity between male and female screenwriters and directors which appears severe in the creative arts given that male minds are generally accepted as more technical and female minds as more creative.

The safest place in the world for completing a pregnancy, in spite of its economic woes, is Greece where less than one in 30,000 women die in childbirth.  The United Kingdom didn’t have the ability to even boast it was in the top ten.

The overall area of the globe with the highest percentage of women working in journalism is the Caribbean, which is nudging towards 50%.  Europe has over 1/3 of its mainstream media positions female filled with the UK again in the region of a 91% to 9% disparity.

The list appears to extend almost ad infinitum, simple labour participation has the UK over 40 places below the sub-Saharan Republic of Burundi.  In terms of earning money then Luxembourg or Norway, with smaller populations than Scotland, should be considered. Women in the UK are over 20 global places behind both these progressive nations.

Women in Scotland still appear to be one of the largest demographics supporting the continuation of London rule, yet it is self evidently a rule that has not been kind to the gender. Finding Scots women in the top ten lists doesn’t happen until examining such areas as heart disease, certain cancers, or limiting the search to Europe, life expectancy.

The question women in Scotland must ask themselves is why?  Why do women want to vote for a future of deprivation for both themselves and their daughters?