So Scottish women are ­working hard, but not paid as well as men.

That will come as no surprise to them. The latest gender analysis of the labour market from the Office of National Statistics shows that 66.8% of women aged 16 to 64 are active in the work place, which is higher than the UK average and one of the highest rates among the nations and regions of the UK.

That is good news, but the relatively high rate of employment overall masks a high level of part-time work. Among the working population, women are more than three times as likely to work part time than men, which has a knock-on effect on both their pay and, for many, their career.

Tempting as it may to conclude that women pass up full-time work out of choice, research shows this is not always the case. Many women work part time because full-time employment is not available to them. A woman returning to work after childbirth who chooses to work three days a week may find that, a few years later when she is ready to increase her hours, she is barred from doing so, her employer having become accustomed to saving money on her salary. That trend has increased due to the recession and its aftermath.

Employers vary in their attitudes, of course, but part-time work often puts women at a career disadvantage. Many women feel that, because they are less visible as a result of being in the office for fewer days, and because they cannot stay late in the evening to impress their employer by burning the midnight oil, they are overlooked for promotion. The fact that key management roles in many organisations are often seen by employers as requiring full-time commitment means women who have to work part time because of caring responsibilities are often considered unsuitable.

The impact of all this on women's finances and careers is clear from the statistics, which show that women are less likely than men to work in higher paid professional occupations and that the top 10% of earners are mostly men. Females are still a small minority on the boards of large companies, at the top of the legal and medical professions and in science and engineering (they account for fewer than one-fifth of board members despite Government-backed efforts to increase their representation).

Women start to fall behind men in their 30s, coinciding with the period they are caring for babies and toddlers.

Scotland's Youth Employment Minister Angela Constance claims the Scottish Government is delivering the "best childcare package in the UK" and that is essential, particularly for women in lower paid jobs for whom the cost of childcare would otherwise make work uneconomical, but efforts must also be made to bring about a culture change so that employers more readily consider flexible working arrangements for senior positions. That could help women edge towards true equality.