Gender inequality in key Scottish industries will be addressed by a new £250,000 fund to encourage girls to widen their career options, Scotland’s First Minister Alex Salmond announced today.
The funding will go towards Careerwise Scotland, a new initiative which will step up action to encourage more girls to consider careers in science and engineering, an issue highlighted previously by the independent Science and Engineering Education Advisory Group.
The First Minister was speaking at Scotland’s first Women’s Employment Summit, co-organised by the STUC and attended by Deputy First Minister Nicola Sturgeon and Minister for Youth Employment Angela Constance.
Mr Salmond said:
“It is vitally important that, from an early age, girls make the right subject choices at school to allow them to progress through education and training toward the widest range of job opportunities possible.
“That’s one reason why we are launching Careerwise Scotland. Working with industry and schools, we want schoolgirls to meet female engineers, manufacturers and scientists and know that those are options open just as much to them as to their male classmates.
“In the run up to today’s historic summit, the issue of gender segregation in a number of specialisms has come to the fore.
“Some progress has been made. Since this conference was proposed, female employment has increased, rising by 12,000 over May-July, whilst female unemployment has fallen by 7,000. Female employment in Scotland is higher, and unemployment and inactivity rates are lower, than they are in the UK as a whole.
“But we know more has to be done.
“The independent Science and Engineering Education Advisory Group highlighted the need to support women into science and engineering, which is why we are establishing Careerwise Scotland with £250,000 to intensify engagement with schools and encourage more girls to consider these areas as career options. We will work closely with STUC and the industry to develop the way forward.
“Women seeking employment face a number of barriers, even in a modern Scotland. I want today’s summit to develop a range of actions to help Scotland’s women make a full contribution to growing Scotland’s economy.
Ms Constance added:
“Helping more women into work is a top priority if Scotland’s economy is to grow faster, and we are doing all we can to achieve that, including our plans to deliver the best package of flexible early learning and childcare anywhere in the UK.
“The perception that some jobs ‘just aren’t for women’ must also be overcome if we are to create a level playing field for all. We want to hear about the real life experiences of women, both around the difficulties they’ve faced and the successes they’ve had.
“The summit will focus on identifying a number of positive steps that public sector bodies, employers, trade unions, other partners and women themselves can take to ensure that nothing stands in their way of Scotland’s women taking advantage of the job opportunities available.”
Grahame Smith, STUC General Secretary added:
“This important initiative can help remedy the current situation where far too few women in Scotland pursue careers in science and engineering. If the goals set out in the Government’s economic strategy are to be achieved, it is essential that more women believe that they can have a viable and rewarding career in science and engineering.
“By encouraging young women to pursue such careers this initiative has the potential realise a significant economic and social dividend.”