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Could female political strength boost diversity in Scottish financial sector?

02/12/14

The cause of women in business in Scotland may be boosted by the creation of a cabinet at Holyrood made up equally of men and women.

In the very recent past, political matters in Scotland created considerable doubt over the future of much of its financial sector, as a number of institutions said they would either move to London or consider doing so in part or whole if there was a yes vote for independence.

As it turned out, they had no need to pack their bags and clear their Edinburgh desks as the Scottish electorate voted to stay in the UK, but that result set another chain of events in motion.

Having lost the referendum, first minister Alex Salmond resigned as Scottish National Party leader and first minister. His replacement, returned unopposed by her party and through the nationalists' majority in Holyrood, was Nicola Sturgeon, previously Mr Salmond's deputy.

She has wasted no time in using her position as the first female first minister of Scotland to enforce equality at cabinet level by ensuring a 50-50 split between men and women.

This may have a different impact on the Scottish financial sector - and other businesses - by helping to promote diversity in the workforce, not least among women.

Ms Sturgeon commented: "Every member of the cabinet is part of this government's top team on merit, on the basis of the excellent work they have already done as ministers.

"The cabinet line-up is also a clear demonstration that this government will work hard in all areas to promote women, to create gender equality and it sends out a strong message that the business of redressing the gender balance in public life starts right here in government."

It is not just the Scottish Nationalists who are currently on the crest of a wave in the polls despite losing the referendum - who might play a role in inspiring greater involvement of women in senior roles at various organisations.

Among the other main parties, the Conservatives are led by Ruth Davidson, while Scottish Labour were led by Johann Lamont until her recent decision to quit. For now, her position is being kept warm by Jackie Baillie, although she is not seeking the leadership.

Although two of the four candidates for the Labour post are female, Jim Murphy - a prominent figure in the no campaign - is favourite to win. Even so, should he do so, he may feel it wise to increase female representation in Labour's shadow minister positions. He will be helped in this effort by the fact that the deputy will definitely be a woman, as that is a straight fight between Kezia Dugdale and Katy Clark.

Indeed, with the Nationalists seeking to take the initiative on diversity as they try to become the majority party in Scotland at next year's general election, Labour may consider it wise to make sure they compete on this front, not least as it would match similar pledges made at national level regarding the front bench at Westminster.

If so, it could raise the profile of women further in Scottish politics - and by extension business. If this is one development that spreads to Westminster, it may similarly generate momentum for greater gender diversity elsewhere in Britain.

 

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