The north’s enterprise agency has called for action on career equality to address a gender gap in the workplace that is more pronounced in the Highlands and Islands than the rest of the country.
A new study shows clear evidence of a gender pay gap in the region – and men are also more likely to work in more senior well paid positions, while women are more prevalent in less senior roles.
Employment rates for both men (82.8%) and women (75.3%) in the region exceed the Scottish average. However, employment levels are higher amongst men than women, and the difference is more marked than for Scotland as a whole.
The type of jobs that men and women work in often reflect traditional views of what is “women’s work” and what is “men’s work”.
A range of factors contribute, including stereotypes, workplace practices and cultures, working patterns and structural barriers such as availability of childcare.
The report points to the need for a region-wide strategic approach to address the issue.
The research, commissioned by Highlands and Islands Enterprise (HIE), was carried out by ekosgen.
Carroll Buxton, director of regional development at HIE, said: “There are numerous benefits to having an evenly balanced workforce. It supports men and women to fulfil their potential. It helps employers make better use of talent.
“It is therefore a key priority for us to promote the business benefits of a gender balanced workforce. To that end we must work with our partners in the public and private sectors to overcome the barriers and bring about equal participation by men and women across different job types or grades.”
Jane MacLeod, a solicitor in Argyll, who is company secretary of MacLeod Construction, Argyll’s largest building firm, said: “I am seeing far more women and younger women in business in our area now than there has been for a long time.
“However I see on boards, particularly government organisations, there is an under-representation of women.
“I do think that women are probably paid less, but how do you evaluate the difference between a cashier in a small company and a brick layer? Men outside are paid quite well, but the women in the office are not paid an equivalent rate. I don’t think that has been evaluated and I think work needs to be done on this.”
Highlands and Islands MSP John Finnie said: “The research demonstrates that there is much work to be done if we are to end gender based inequality in the Highlands and Islands.”