SCOTLAND faces a huge task to improve gender equality in the workplace according to new analysis that shows men are nearly twice as likely as women to be employed in a top job.

The study found the picture has hardly improved over the past decade, despite consistently higher numbers of women than men studying at university since the 1990s.

It also found the pay gap between the sexes - men earn nine per cent more than women on average - has only narrowed slightly over the past 10 years.

The analysis, by economist John McLaren, came as the Scottish Government's new Environment Secretary, Roseanna Cunningham, announced the appointments of five women to the board of Scottish Natural Heritage.

The move means six of the nature quango's 10 directors are women, in line with a government target to ensure the boards of public sector bodies are gender balanced.

However, Mr McLaren warned the target and other Scottish Government initiatives may not be enough to reverse "cultural barriers" and "ingrained working practices" that prevent women taking a greater share of senior roles.

He said the under-representation of women amounted to a "misallocation of resources" in the economy, acting as a drag on growth.

The report was based on detailed new labour market statistics published by the Scottish Government.

Last year, 10.6 per cent of men were in management positions, compared with 6.6 per cent of women.

The figures had improved only slightly from 2004, when 10.4 per cent of men were in senior jobs, compared with 5.9 per cent of women.

The situation was "even worse," the report said, with the very top jobs, as only around 2 per cent of directors at Scotland's top 30 publicly quoted companies were


The nine per cent pay gap recorded last year compared with 11.6 per cent in 2004.

The study said: "Bearing in mind the educational advantage that women have, and with it being the case for getting on for two decades now, it seems odd that this advantage is not better reflected in senior

positions throughout the economy.

"A similar problem exists with respect to the gap in gender pay equality, which, although it has been narrowing over time, remains very significant from the age of 35 and over, again failing to reflect the long term positive education differential for Scottish female workers.

"Such inconsistencies suggest a misallocation of resources across the economy which, if rectified, could lead to faster economic growth in the longer term."

The report welcome the Scottish Government's plan to ensure 50:50 gender balance on public sector boards by 2020 and other initiatives such as the UK Government's proposal to oblige larger firms to publish data on pay differences.

But it added: "These initiatives alone may not be enough to fully overcome the cultural barriers still

prevalent in traditionally male dominated industries like construction and manufacturing.

"While setting targets for gender balance is one way of improving things, it may be that ingrained

working practices mean that the gender based negative drag on the economy from the under-utilisation of skills across the workforce continues.

"As a result other initiatives or legislation may be


Scottish Labour MSP Jackie Baillie said pay ratios should be made public.

She added: "This report makes clear there is still so much to do to break the glass ceiling for women, especially in senior posts. "Three women party leaders in our parliament does not mean we have an economy that works for women."

Patrick Harvie, the Scottish Greens leader called on the government to put "greater effort into correcting this imbalance".