Labour Lothian MSP Kezia Dugdale has accused Tory leader Ruth Davidson of failing women after voting against plans to secure gender equality on public boards.
Ms Dugdale said Edinburgh Central MSP Ms Davidson wants to keep the institutional barriers that women face in place.
Ms Dugdale, a co-founder of campaign group Women 50/50, this week spoke in parliament in support of the Gender Representation on Public Boards (Scotland) Bill, which sets a target for women to make up 50 per cent of non-executive board membership. She said voluntary measures have brought gender equality closer, but legislation is required to ensure that progress continues.
Tory MSPs voted against the Bill at its first stage of the parliamentary process.
Kezia Dugdale said:
“A century on from women securing the right to vote, this new law is a significant step on the road to gender equality.
“Women are underrepresented in positions of influence in Scotland, giving them unequal access to power, decision-making and participation throughout public life – and that has to change.
“Time and time again, the Tories claim they want equality, just not now. When they are pushed to say what they are going to do about it, the answer is nothing.
“With this Bill, we are trying to create a free market whereby people of skill and merit can get to the top. That is how we can tackle the institutional barriers that women face.
“But Ruth Davison has failed women in her Edinburgh constituency and across Scotland by voting to keep those barriers in place.”
The Gender Representation on Public Boards (Scotland) Bill will introduce a ‘gender representation objective’, a target for women to make up 50 per cent of non-executive board membership. The objective will apply to certain public bodies, colleges and higher education institutions, and to Scottish Ministers as they appoint non-executive board members through the Public Appointments process.
As of September 2017, 45.8 per cent of positions on regulated boards were held by women, and only 25 per cent of chairs on regulated boards were women.