This week COSLA’s Gender Balance Task group met with Political Leaders to discuss our recommendations for achieving gender balance in COSLA’s Leadership Team and Spokespeople. I am very pleased to report positive responses from the SNP, Lib Dem and Labour Leaders who will commend our recommendations to enshrine Gender equality in COSLA’s Constitution to their groups. This does not guarantee the matter will receive support of convention but is a very welcome step.
With our First Minister Nicola Sturgeon leading the way with a gender balanced team of talents in the cabinet and the shadow cabinet also 50/50 it feels like we might just be at a place where we can make changes that will deliver lasting results and show that we are all serious about equality.
In Scotland women make up 52% of the population. 24% of Councillors are women and only 3 of the 32 Local Authorities are led by women. We know that women are more likely to use public services, it is counter-intuitive that they have least responsibility and input as elected members for their delivery.
It matters that in 2015 women in Scotland are not equally visible in public life and not just because women are just as capable as men of holding public office and leadership roles.
Diversity in decision making produces better results. Men and women don’t have different ways of making decisions and calculating risk, but having homogeneous groups of decision-makers is a known risk.
Where there are different people from different backgrounds coming together there is challenge of ideas and assumptions. But more than that, research has shown that where there is diversity in a group, members change the way they process information taking a more careful and questioning approach.
Whether we’re talking about a room full of women in their 30s or a room full of retired men. Cosy clubs of similar people is a way of continuing with “it’s ae been”, assumptions and vested interests can remain unscrutinised – it’s a real risk and should be of particular concern to those of us delivering public services.