The Po­lit­i­cal Pi­o­neer


Ni­cola Stur­geon is Scot­land’s first ever fe­male First Minister.

When I en­tered pol­i­tics 26 years ago, it was still very male-dom­i­nated. Now, at Holy­rood I stand in the cham­ber for First Minister’s Ques­tions to de­bate with two other fe­male lead­ers, in front of a fe­male Pre­sid­ing Of­fi­cer! The more women we have in pol­i­tics, the faster we will progress to­wards equal­ity. As Scot­land’s first fe­male First Minister, I am de­ter­mined to im­prove rep­re­sen­ta­tion of women in se­nior roles. My first ac­tion as First Minister was to ap­point a gen­der-bal­anced cab­i­net, at the time one of only three in the de­vel­oped world. Gen­der equal­ity is one of the great­est eco­nomic op­por­tu­ni­ties of this cen­tury. Re­search sug­gests that if rates of women-led busi­nesses equalled those of men, the con­tri­bu­tion to Scot­land’s an­nual eco­nomic out­put would in­crease by £7.6 bil­lion. Women have the right to pur­sue ca­reers that they have the skills to do. It’s not right and it’s not good for so­ci­ety to un­der­use the tal­ent of over 50 per cent of our pop­u­la­tion. How­ever, there are still bar­ri­ers in the work­place which have an ef­fect on fe­male par­tic­i­pa­tion, such as the cost of child­care.

Fe­male em­ploy­ment in Scot­land is higher than the UK as a whole. But it’s not just about get­ting women into the work­place, it’s also about the type of work women un­der­take. They are un­der­rep­re­sented in science and tech­nol­o­gy­based jobs. On the day I be­came First Minister, I said I wanted to send a strong mes­sage to all girls and young women in Scot­land – if you work hard, the sky is the limit. Ab­so­lutely noth­ing should hold you back from ful­fill­ing your po­ten­tial and ac­com­plish­ing your dreams. I want them to suc­ceed, to aim high and achieve their dreams. I want young girls to grow up in a Scot­land where the gen­der pay gap or un­der-rep­re­sen­ta­tion or the bar­ri­ers, like high child­care costs, are not an is­sue. I be­lieve you should suc­ceed on your abil­i­ties and how hard you work and your gen­der, fam­ily or race should not hold you back from that.

‘It’s not right for so­ci­ety to un­der­use the tal­ent of over 50 per cent of our pop­u­la­tion’

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