International Women's Day

photo of Shona Struthers

By Shona Struthers, Chief Executive of Colleges Scotland

Scotland’s colleges are providing increased opportunities to unlock the potential of women. More than half of all students in the sector, 51.7%, are women, putting them at the very heart of the nation’s efforts to deliver a skills-led recovery.

Today, International Women’s Day, it’s absolutely fitting that we celebrate the contributions colleges are making to delivering positive outcomes for women.

What’s particularly exciting and significant is that our colleges very often offer those opportunities as a second chance. While most students aged 16-23 are male, the balance changes in women aged 24 and over. Colleges are offering more tailored and enticing pathways towards formal education and fulfilling employment.

And the skills women gain in areas such as STEM, hospitality, healthcare, and in what were once male-dominated sectors such construction and engineering, will be absolutely vital as we emerge into the post-pandemic world.

But these changes don’t just happen. Colleges across Scotland, alongside our partners in government, have been making sustained efforts over a number of years to ensure women aren’t only in the classrooms and lecture halls. Increasingly, women have key roles in senior management, as Principals or on college boards. For example, the new chair of Colleges Scotland, Waiyin Hatton, is also chair of West College Scotland, providing the governance and guidance needed in what have been enormously challenging times.

It's very rewarding to have seen, in the pandemic year of 2020/21, an 8% increase in the number of women taking up Higher Education courses at college. That figure of 26,173 is the highest number for a decade. These statistics reflect the importance increasingly being placed on getting the right qualifications to match the many skills shortages being faced across the economy.

On International Women’s Day, Scotland’s colleges have a great deal to be proud of. Barriers to education and skills provision are being broken as more gender-balanced senior leadership teams and boards deliver more gender-balanced learning experiences.

There’s certainly a lot more still to do. However, as the world unites to celebrate and support women everywhere, it’s important that we also take time to acknowledge and recognise the progress our colleges have made in recent years, and the positive outcomes we’ve facilitated for so many.

Together we’re making positive change in colleges, in the workplace and across the nation. That’s something in which we should all take enormous pride.


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