Keeping Progress on Track

Progress towards gender equality is not following an exponential path of growth, the last 18 months has ground gender parity to a halt, and in some ways reversed it into regression.

The World Economic Forum has estimated in its Global Gender Gap 2021 report that the Covid-19 pandemic has set gender parity back almost 35 years, to 135.6 years, another generation of women and girls who won’t experience Equality.

This is just an estimation, it can be overcome, but there needs to be a collective commitment to action now to ensure that it won’t come to pass – otherwise another generation will be held back from reaching their potential purely because of their gender and society’s perceptions of where they should fit.

It has been 152 years since the Edinburgh Seven overcame seemingly insurmountable odds to become the first women undergraduates in the men’s world of higher education and medical school. Yet even today there remain barriers to access and pathways hidden from women hindering, or even preventing, them from getting into STEM.

At every stage from early years to career decision making, and career progression, women and girls are lost from the sector through the leaky pipeline.

There is a huge skills gap in Scotland for STEM careers, yet 51% of the population faces barriers to developing the skills, knowledge, and opportunities in these sectors.

The core, and most lucrative, industries of the future will be in STEM fields: green energy, carbon reduction, cloud computing, and artificial intelligence. All indications point to these sectors becoming critical components of the future of industry. But even today we are still not using all our talents.

Access to these sectors should not be limited by societal pressures on women to pursue other careers, fulfil caring responsibilities in the home, and have pathways into these industries blocked by outdated ideas about women’s role in the workplace.

The pandemic has placed a disproportionate burden on women. Globally, 5% of women have lost their jobs, as 3.9% of men. The demands of additional unpaid work have resulted in many women working a double shift; juggling work with homeschooling, housework, and care obligations.

There needs to make a commitment to ensuring the pandemic does not set the course for gender equality back 35 years. Equate’s 7 manifesto asks lay a pathway to build back a fairer, more equal Scotland.  Bold action is required now to deliver the fairer society we say we want.

Read our COVID-19 survey report for more details of the impact of the pandemic on Scottish women in STEM.