The debate highlighted a number of statistics such as the fact that despite high achievements in education, women hold less than a third of the United Kingdom’s top jobs.
MSPs speaking in the debate, both male and female, spoke about examples in their constituencies of the barriers that women face in getting top jobs and the need for Government action to make the shift towards parity. The experience to date tells is that the gender gap will not close by itself and that a glass ceiling remains.
In my speech, I chose to focus on two separate issues involving women on the margins of society. The first related to female refugees.
I highlighted the work of the refugee women’s strategy group highlighting some of the particular barriers faced by refugees. One particular issue is access to childcare which, while a problem for all women, takes on a slightly different dimension for refugees. In many cases, due to cultural differences, some refugees view childcare as an admission of failure as a parent rather than as a valuable support.
There is also a lack of specialist services designed to support refugee women to access work whether it is language specific information, assistance to organise work placements or early interventions to prepare women for work when they are going through the asylum process. Many refugees arrive with professional degrees and skills which are not recognised in Scotland and I used the debate to call for work to address this situation.
The second issue I raised in the debate was about female offenders, a topic I have spoken about in the past. For many women caught in a cycle of re-offending, this relates to financial exclusion. Compared to the general population, prisoners are 13 times more likely to have been unemployed.
The latest unemployment figures show that female unemployment remains stubbornly higher in Scotland than the rest of the UK. I am pleased that the Scottish Government recognises that there is no monopoly on wisdom on this issue and that they are arranging a women’s employment summit in September. I have asked for these groups on the margins to be included in the summit.