Nicola Sturgeon has announced a new strategy to tackle the gender pay gap in Scotland in a speech on International Women’s Day.
The First Minister revealed the plan to reduce inequality as she celebrated the progress made in Scotland.
But she stressed how much more still needed to be done.
“Women’s equality isn’t just an issue of principle and fairness for women – if we have gender equality the country does better and we have a better world,” Ms Sturgeon said.
“It’s in everybody’s interest and we should never lose sight of that.”
Speaking to businesswomen at the City Chambers in Edinburgh, Ms Sturgeon announced the Scottish Government’s Gender Pay Gap Action Plan, pledging “a whole range of ways in which we will tackle the causes of the gender pay gap – in our education system, in workplaces and across society”.
The policy outlines more than 50 steps to reduce the disparity between men and women, including £5 million of funding over three years for a programme providing advice, training and placements for women who want to return to work after a career break, having children or caring for elderly relatives.
The Scottish Government will also carry out an equal pay audit to look at pay in the public sector, as well as expanding the Workplace Equality Fund, including support for women during menopause and for victims of domestic abuse.
Ms Sturgeon said: “While the gender pay gap in Scotland is now the lowest on record and lower than the UK as a whole, we still have much progress to make, which requires long term solutions not short term fixes.”
Giving examples of disparity in business, she said: “It is still the case that more than three-fifths of new businesses are being started by men and less than two-fifths by women.
“That matters as a basic issue of principle – a basic issue of equity – but it also matters for a really hard-headed reason as well.
“That disparity harms the country and our economy overall.”
She added: “Research suggests that if the level of female ownership of businesses in Scotland matched the level of male ownership the size of our economy would increase by around 5%.
“To put that into context, that equates to £7.6 billion.
“So getting more women into business isn’t just good for women, quite simply it will make our economy richer and make all of us more prosperous.”
Susan Harkins, head of Business Gateway Scotland, which organised the event to mark International Women’s Day, welcomed Ms Sturgeon’s pledge.
She said: “It’s not an easy task but it’s good for business, it’s good for women and it’s also good for men.
“Women-led businesses are contributing £8.8 billion to the Scottish economy and they make up about 11% of the total employment in the private sector in Scotland – imagine if we got more women starting up and growing their businesses? It makes good economic sense.”