Women in work
This was been a historic week for female employment.
In amongst some very positive news in the latest labour market figures was proof that that we are making a difference in narrowing of the gender gap.
The gap between male and female employment rates in Scotland shrunk from 9.4 percentage points in Nov-Jan 2013 to just 5.4 percentage points now.
This is compared to an increase from 9.8 percentage points to 9.9 percentage points in the UK, showing that Scotland is leading the way in supporting women into jobs.
Today I chaired the latest meeting of the Scottish Government’s Strategic Group on Women in Work which draws together key figures from a number of sectors to discuss how best to address the issue.
The group has been meeting since 2012 to consider what more can be done at all levels to help women to fulfil their potential in the labour market. While we know many issues still remain, progress is being made in a number of areas.
For example, Careerwise is a £250,000 fund being delivered through the Scottish Resource Centre for Women in Science, Engineering and Technology to encourage more young women into Science, Technology, Engineering and Maths jobs.
With further action on childcare and enterprise, there is much being done and our employment record is strong when compared to the rest of Europe.
But we want to be even better. Control of Scotland’s welfare and employment system would allow us to open up further opportunities for women to enter the jobs market. Women are key to Scotland’s continuing economic recovery and we must continue to push for equality in the jobs market, particularly in areas such as engineering and ICT.
Today’s discussion represented the next step in what must realistically be viewed as a lengthy process, which will form part of the Scottish Government’s work to reduce inequality.