Does the Scottish Government’s Bill on creating a 50/50 gender balance on public boards go far enough?

See our latest contribution to the Herald’s Business Magazine Big Idea discussion ….

In this moment in the early 21st century, this moment of #metoo, #oxfamsexscandal, Harvey Weinstein and a host of other issues which have put women’s lack of equality in the workplace and public life on the front page, it is refreshing to see the Scottish Government mandating that women are equally represented on Scotland’s public boards. I am, however, left with a question about what difference this change is intended to make … other than getting onto a front page?

In Animate we always begin with a question of purpose. If individuals and organisations are clear about the purpose of their intended innovation, re-structuring or service development, they are much more likely to achieve their intended outcomes. Very often they are clear about the big-picture change they intend to make, but we find in facilitating more in-depth exploration of the why, we surface a range of beliefs, intentions and ways of thinking about what this change will really mean.

On the big-picture level, this change signifies the Scottish Government’s intention to create a more equal Scotland (remembering that women are estimated to be 51% of Scotland’s population), and its commitment to creating opportunities for under-represented groups to influence both the present and the future; to hold positions of relative power.

While this is honourable, if past-due, I am left curious about what they are planning to do to ensure that women’s voices are not only heard, but are active agents in shaping the culture of public boards, and thus Scotland itself. Not just what they do, but how they do it.

I wonder what sort of discussions have been had in relation to the impact the government believes this change will have to the functioning and achievements of public boards?

When I think about the Christie Commission’s work on the Future Delivery of Public Services (2011), and the legislation that came into place on the back of its recommendations, it is all very good ‘big picture’ stuff – co-production with individuals and communities, integrated public services, preventative work with children and young people, etc. However, Animate’s experience of working in public services leaves us with the impression that there wasn’t a great deal of thinking done in relation to what will enable these aspirations to translate from the big picture to the front line. How will communities be involved as ‘co-producers’? What will integrated health and social care services look and behave like? How will we hear from children and young people about the differences they experience from professionals using a preventative approach?

I don’t mean to imply, in any way, that good things aren’t happening as a direct result of this legislation. Our experience, however, is that these good things seem to be a result of the inspiration, motivation, commitment and leadership of individuals – implemented in different ways, with varying degrees of success, across the country.

While it isn’t government’s job to do our thinking for us, if Animate were consulting to them on the implementation of this new legislation, we would be encouraging them to be bold with their vision about what this significant change is intended to achieve; for public bodies, for Scotland, as well as for 51% of our population.