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Mind the GAP

On 12 August, International Youth Day, SFC launched its Gender Action Plan – a bold call to action for colleges and universities to address gender imbalances in their institutions and beyond.

Of course there are many areas that contribute to gender inequality, but two educational issues have been holding young people back from achieving their full potential for too long – gender stereotyping which persists when choosing subjects, and the gap between young men and young women going into universities.

Engaging everyone in tackling it, particularly young people, is vital not only to ensure every individual fulfils their potential unconstrained by their gender, but for solid economic and cultural reasons – for the future of an inclusive and prosperous Scotland.

Maggie KinlochOur Gender Action Plan is the culmination of over 18 months of consultation, discussion and investigation – reaching out to stakeholders and partners across education, industry, public and private sectors in Scotland and elsewhere.

Subject choice at college or university is perhaps the most significant factor in determining an individual’s career path and earning potential throughout their working life. Traditionally we have seen men and women study in areas which are very different and offer significantly different salaries.

The declining number of young men studying in higher education presents a different challenge. The current gap in participation of male students compared to female students is just over 15% and this is a statistic which shows a worrying trend towards greater inequality of access to our universities.

Students at the University of the West of ScotlandWe have seen excellent examples of innovative action across further and higher education to tackle these issues. And that’s what we are encouraging colleges and universities to do – decades of research has not led to significantly different ways of working, so this is our call to Scotland’s colleges and universities to be bold, be brave and commit to supporting greater gender equality in your institutions in measured, practical and positive ways.

We live in a time when the leaders of our three main political parties in the Scottish Parliament are female. Our new Prime Minister and potentially the new President of the biggest economy in the world, the United States of America, are female. Yet young people are still pigeon-holed into careers based on their gender and nothing else.

There has never been a better time than now to accept the challenge of embedding gender equality in our education system and leading the way, for the benefit of our future generations. So I am proud to launch the Scottish Funding Council’s Gender Action Plan and I look forward to learning about how it is implemented by each college and university in Scotland over the coming months and years, so that on International Youth Days to come we can celebrate the achievements of young people truly free to choose their futures.

Professor Maggie Kinloch, Chair of SFC’s Access and Inclusion Committee - 17 Aug 2016