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Women's Issues Research Findings No. 3

New publication from the Scottish Executive central research unit:
Women's Issues Research Findings No. 3
Women and Men in the Professions in Scotland

Helen Kay


This study aims to start to fill the gap in our knowledge of women's position within the professions in Scotland. It aims to examine the level of women's participation and recognition in their profession, and to review the research and initiatives undertaken by professional organisations to improve equality of opportunity for women since 1995. The study also aims to identify key areas for further investigation.

There is a larger proportion of women in the lower grades than in the higher grades across all professions. Whatever the gender balance within the profession in comparison with men there are proportionately more women at the lower grade of graduate member than at higher grades of full member and fellow.

None of the professional organisations included in the survey had undertaken monitoring of the gender balance of their membership, and very few have encouraged their members to consider gender equality issues, though women's groups have been established by female members of some professional organisations.

Basic data on women in the professions are not routinely available in published form for all professions. The data vary across professions and are often partial, limited, or non-existent. Despite the deficiencies of the data it is possible to discern a pattern across all professions of under-representation of women at senior levels.

Many interviewees reported a long hours culture that did not fit with the interests or family commitments of many women.  The position of women in the professions was largely attributed to the impact of maternity breaks, part-time work, and lack of family friendly employment practices.

Members of professional organisations reported that gender stereotypes continued to affect perceptions of appropriate roles for men and women.  The majority of professional organisations thought that the position of women in their profession was improving, though this was not monitored.

A number of barriers are perceived to continue to exist to the achievement of equality for women in the professions, including:
exclusionary practices; gender stereotyping; lack of flexible working
and family friendly employment policies;
and a failure of professional organisations to actively promote equal opportunities.