Education and training

Between the cradle and the labour market girls and boys, and women and men are still clustered into different subjects, training programmes and jobs.

Segregation and gender stereotyping in education continues to limit equal opportunities for women and girls, and to create a context of inequality in which other harms, such as violence against women and girls, can flourish. The cost of failing to tackle gender inequality, sexism, and misogyny in schools is high.

We want to see girls attend safe schools in Scotland, and pursue their interests in an environment free of stereotyping and assumptions about their skills and capabilities.


By 2030 Scotland is implementing a ‘whole-school’ approach to addressing gender inequality in education.

The Scottish Government and local authorities should:

Gender the ‘whole-school’ approach

Gender the curriculum

Tackle bullying and harassment

Evidence shows that gender stereotyping from a very early age has an impact on the decisions that girls and boys make about subject and career choice. Gendered divisions over what is considered acceptable behaviour or subject choices are reinforced not only through the attitudes of pupils, staff and parents, but also through codes of practice in school, careers advice and school management decisions and staffing. It is vital to take a ‘whole-school approach’ to building communities in which gender inequality isn’t tolerated, and this creates a conducive context for better outcomes for girls and boys.

Sexist bullying and misogynistic behaviours are highly prevalent in education settings in Scotland, and undermine the dignity and safety of girls and young women, negatively impacting on their views of themselves and their experience of and attainment in education. In 2015, 75 percent of girls and young women responding to a GirlGuiding UK survey reported anxiety about experiencing sexual harassment, with 25 percent of 11 to 16 year olds stating that it made them consider whether to speak out in class. There is a clear demand from girls and school-aged women to make the issue of sexist bullying and sexual harassment a priory area for engagement. However, currently schools in Scotland do not routinely collect data on sexist incidents, and the Scotland’s national approach to anti-bullying makes little reference to gender-based harassment.

There have been only limited, marginal, and project-based attempts to tackle components of girls and women’s inequality in education. When gender is not substantively included in large pieces of policy like Developing Young Workforce, the youth skills strategy, then there is a tendency towards discrete, specific, and superficial actions and a failure to gender mainstream. This means that the fundamental shifts around gendering education theory and practice that we see in the Nordic countries have yet to happen in Scotland. The public sector equality duty (PSED) which is supposed to drive gender mainstreaming across the entire public sector in Scotland has made no discernible difference to education and skills practice or outcomes.


By 2030 gender is a key consideration in the development and implementation of Scottish employability programmes.

Scottish Government should:

Gender employability programmes

An individual’s readiness to work is profoundly affected by their education and skills, by their caring responsibilities, by their safety at home and in the workplace, and by the types of work they are able to access. Women have different experiences than men in all of these areas, and any employability programme needs to take into account these differences and purposefully respond to them. Generic skills and employability programmes tend to replicate gendered patterns of skills acquisition and employment, which in turn perpetuate the gender pay gap, the clustering of men and women into different types of work and women’s underemployment.

A complex web of policy, programmes and initiatives underpins employability activity in Scotland. Its purpose is to ready people for paid work and sustain them in employment. To date, the employability sector appears to have failed to engage with gender and women’s starkly different experiences of both life and the labour market. This is particularly true of the linear ‘employability pipeline’ – the core employability concept in Scotland – which places less emphasis on forms of pre-employment support that are particularly necessary for women who are not in paid work because of caring responsibilities, mental health or domestic abuse. The idea of a pipeline that transports potential workers to the labour market seems to struggle to cope with the way that women must dip in and out of paid work, which means it is particularly insensitive to specific groups of women.

The recent devolution of new employability powers to Scotland is an opportunity to develop employability interventions with women’s needs in mind. In addition to the mainstreaming of gender across all new programmes and structures, more interventions should be developed that are tailored to women and particular women’s needs – for example, to the needs of disabled women, women experiencing domestic abuse, single mothers or refugee women – who face complex and overlapping barriers to the labour market.


By 2030 the Modern Apprenticeship programme actively works towards narrowing the gender pay gap and reducing occupational segregation in Scotland.

Scottish Government should:

Ensure equality of outcomes in modern apprenticeships

Scottish Modern Apprenticeships (MA) are an intermediate skills programme that acts as a key entry point to the labour market for young people who do not go to university, within which apprentices earn a wage and gain an industry recognised qualification.

Skills Development Scotland, who deliver the MA programme, and the Scottish Government are both required by the Public Sector Equality Duty (PSED) to use their resources to address inequalities and narrow gender gaps. However, its introduction has not mitigated the acute and chronic gendered segregation in Scotland’s Modern Apprenticeship programme, which is widening the gender pay gap, contributing to gender-based skills gaps and sustaining gendered occupation segregation. The frameworks in which men are concentrated, such as engineering and construction, are also those which are the most resource intensive, longer in duration, and lead to better labour market outcomes associated with higher rates of pay. The frameworks in which women dominate, such as early-years care and hairdressing, are shorter in duration, have lower rates of pay, higher drop-out rates, and poorer labour market outcomes. This also means that there is a disproportionate spend on male apprentices: Close the Gap estimates that only 39 percent of the spend on the 12 largest employability frameworks from 2005-2015 was spent on women.

Currently, individual employers are responsible for recruiting apprentices, and there is no requirement for employers to demonstrate the quality of their equalities practice, and no incentives to recruit non-traditional apprentices.

The plans to expand the Modern Apprenticeships programme (to 30,000 new starts each year by 2020) currently contain no proposals to fundamentally change the mechanisms for apprenticeship delivery. However, the Scottish Government has recently reasserted its commitment to take forward the measures set out in the 2015 Equality Action Plan for Modern Apprenticeships, as well as a number of additional ‘improvement measures’ including to increase the numbers of frameworks that can support apprentices over the age of 25, and enhance support for young disabled people and those with experience of care.

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Gender Matters Roadmap - towards women's equality in ScotlandGender Matters Roadmap - towards women's equality in Scotland

Key terms


Gender mainstreaming is a strategy towards realising gender equality involving the integration of a gender perspective into the preparation, design, implementation, monitoring and evaluation of policies and programmes.


The labour market refers to the space in which employers look and compete for labour, and in which workers look and compete for employment


This refers to the phenomenon whereby women/girls and men/boys are channelled into different types of employment or education choices.


‘To gender’ a policy or programme means to ensure that its impact on gender equality has been considered at every stage. This can also be referred to as making it gender sensitive.


The Public sector equality duty requires public authorities to take a proactive and organised approach to tackling institutional discrimination, and aims to mainstream equality into public bodies.


Underemployment refers to the situation where people are being employed either at lower hours than they would like, or in roles which do not match their skills, education or training.


A whole-school approach is an educational strategy whereby work in different spaces across the school, including within the curriculum, extracurricular activities, teacher training and engaging the community, is coordinated and links to an overarching vision.

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