THE full extent of just how badly women are doing in Scotland when it comes to getting the nation's top jobs can be revealed today.

A new study reveals that of the 3029 top leadership position in Scotland across politics, business, the public sector, the media, culture and sport only 27% - or 812 - are filled by women.

The study by the think-tank and lobby group Engender, which campaigns for equality and women's rights, paints a portrait of a nation in which women are shockingly under-represented in elite roles, and, in some fields non-existent. The report points out that progress previously made in some sectors has “stalled and regressed”.

The findings will shock many who see Scotland as a global leader when it comes to gender equality due to three women at the helm of the nation's main political parties: Nicola Sturgeon of the SNP, Ruth Davidson of the Scottish Conservative, and Kezia Dugdale of Scottish Labour. In total some 703 women are 'missing' from Scotland's most senior positions.

The report - titled Sex & Power - makes particularly depressing reading, ahead of this Wednesday's International Women's Day.

The report shows that none - that's 0% - of Scotland’s “top businesses”, FTSE 100 companies, have a woman CEO. None of our major newspapers are edited by a woman either.

In spite of the fact that women are 52% of the population, they represent only 35% of MSPs, 7% of senior police officers, 16% of council leaders, 17% of MEPs, 20% of museum and gallery directors, 25% of local councillors, 14% of sports bodies CEOs, 28% of public body chief executives, 26% of university principals, and 23% of sheriffs. Of the council committees dedicated to the scrutiny of finance, economy, resources or enterprise, only 10% are led by women.

Other countries are overtaking us when it comes to gender equality, outstripping us, for instance, in political representation. Countries like Rwanda and Bolivia have hit over 50% female representation in their parliaments after legislating for gender quotas. Last year, the UK came 20th in the World Economic Forum gender gap ranking, having slipped down two places.

Emma Ritch, executive director of Engender, said the report revealed “white, non-disabled men hold the most power in Scotland. This over-representation will continue unless concerted and deliberate action is taken to change our assumptions about who should lead, make decisions in the public interest, and have responsibility for what gets spent where. Men are not naturally more suited to positions of power, but they do benefit from cultural expectations about leadership and authority.”

She added that by contrast “women face persistent barriers to achieving leadership roles, ranging from structural issues like a lack of flexible work, through unlawful harassment and discrimination, to an insidious cultural assumption that we just don't belong around boardroom tables. Leadership, in some sectors is exclusively male dominated, double-glazing the glass ceiling for any women attempting to reach the highest levels in their sector.”

Speaking exclusively to the Sunday Herald First Minister Nicola Sturgeon said: “There have been huge strides forward in gender equality but more still needs to be done. I am proud of the fact that the Scottish Government has led by example by having one of the very few gender balanced cabinets anywhere – with all ministers, male and female, appointed on merit. We have also advanced the cause of equality by the actions we have taken to increase female representation at senior level, including the 50:50 by 2020 initiative to encourage gender balance in boardrooms across Scotland over the next few years."

Scottish Labour leader Kezia Dugdale told the Sunday Herald: “It may feel, if you just look at Holyrood, that debates about gender balance are over, given we have three women leading political parties. But scratch the surface and it’s all too obvious that the gender gap still exists in many workplaces and even in Parliament.”

Dugdale observed that the closest Scotland has had to gender parity in Holyrood was in 2003 when just under 40 per cent of MSPs were female, adding: “But in this current Parliament only 35 per cent of MSPs are female – the exact same proportion as in 2011 – so things have gone backwards and are now stagnating. We are trying to change that - Scottish Labour went into last year’s elections with gender equality among our candidates, but not all other parties could say the same. Indeed if you look at the Tories now, only six of their 31 MSPs are women.

“The Parliament as a whole needs to lead by example so we can show other public bodies and businesses how and why gender equality is vital to the way that we run our country and our economy. We also need more women in Parliament because so many of the decisions made there affect women disproportionately. The SNP budget just passed will strip millions of pounds out of programmes that women rely heavily on – education, childcare and other vital public services.”

Scottish Conservative leader Ruth Davidson declined to comment on the issue of gender equality.

As well as fewer female MSPs than in 2003, Scotland has fewer female senior police officers than in 2011, and fewer trade union general secretaries than in 2011. The Sex & Power report states: “Senior advisory roles are at the heart of government strategy and decision-making, yet only seven from 28 special advisors (SPADS) to the current Scottish Government are women.”

Among the changes advocated by Engender were “temporary innovations, like quotas”. Executive director Emma Ritch added: “Scotland needs both more powers to introduce quotas in the Scottish Parliament, and to use some of its current regulatory powers better to require public bodies to take action to enable women's leadership” She also called for a “Gender Matters in Business” programme, making gender equality “more straightforward for businesses to operationalise”.

All this comes in advance not only of International Women’s Day but also, on Tuesday, Women’s Pay Day - the day in the year from which the average woman starts being paid, compared to the average man. Because the current gender pay gap is 18%, it is celebrated this year 66 days into the year.