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(originally published to Helium writing site, now gone)

Women have long had inferior status in Scotland, just as they did in practically all societies until quite recently. Factors such as Scottish machismo, Calvinism, militarism, and laborism meant that women were largely confined to domestic duties and reproduction. Men, on the other hand, dominated public life and paid employment. But women are now making rapid inroads in the workforce, income levels, elected political offices, and other areas.

In politics, after the 2011 election, 34% of the members of the Scottish Parliament were women, about the same as 2007 although down from 39% in 2003. These percentages are much higher than in the UK Parliament where 14% of members for Scottish constituencies are women and 86% are men. In the European Parliament, 29% of members from Scotland were women and 71% were men after the 2006 election. At local government level in Scotland, 22% of councilors were women in 2003, as were 19% of local council leaders and 13% of local authority chief executives in 2007. A third of people appointed in 2006 to non-departmental public bodies in Scotland and 17% of their chairpersons were women.

Traditionally, men have far outnumbered women in the Scottish workforce, but this gap has steadily narrowed in recent decades. The difference in employment rates between men and women has decreased from 20% in 1984 to just 5% in 2006. Far more women than men work part-time, accounting for 41% of employed women and 10% of employed men in 2006. Unemployment is higher for men. Over the year to December 2009, the male unemployment rate rose from 5.2% to 7.0%, while the female rate increased from 1.8% to 2.5%, on the basis of Jobseeker’s Allowance claimants.

Men still dominate industries in Scotland such as construction (where 89% of the 2004 workforce were male), energy and water supply (82%), agriculture (75%), manufacturing (73%), and transport (72%). However, women are more numerous in public administration, education and health (72%), distribution and hotels (56%), and banking (51%). In 2006, occupations where women comprised the majority of workers included personal services (85%), administrative and secretarial positions (81%), and sales and customer service jobs (71%). By contrast, skilled trades were overwhelmingly male (92%), as were process workers (86%), while 64% of managers and senior officials were men.

Women still earn less income than men but the gender pay gap is narrowing. In 2007, women received 85% of male earnings based on average hourly pay of full-time workers. In 1970, this figure was only 54%, rising to 72% by 1998, 77% by 2003 and 81% by 2005. The gender earnings ratio differs between industries and occupations. In education, women on average got 91% of what men earned in 2005. In manufacturing, it was just 68%. For professional occupations, women received 86% of male earnings, while for process workers, the figure was 70%.

Despite imbalances in favor of men in the workforce and in income, women in Scotland are more educated than their male counterparts. Girls stay at school longer than boys and gain better qualifications. Women outnumber men at higher education and further education institutions. In 2004-05, 57% of further education students were women and 43% were men. Women made up 93% of primary school teachers and 59% of secondary school teachers in 2005, although only 81% of head teachers at primary schools were women and 21% at secondary schools.

Life expectancy for women in Scotland was 79.5 years in 2005, higher than the 74.5 years for men, although the gender longevity gap has narrowed slightly. Cancer is the major cause of death for both sexes. Men are more likely to succumb to coronary heart disease and women to stroke. Women suffer more from anxiety and depression, although men are more likely to take their own lives. More men are overweight or obese, increasing from 56% of the male population in 1995 to 65% in 2003. For women, the figure has risen from 47% to 60% over the same period.

Women were more likely than men to be the victims of crime, while men were more likely to be the offenders. Almost 20% of women and 8% of men have had threats of force by a current or previous partner, according to the 2000 Scottish Crime Survey. In 2005, about 85% of domestic abuse victims were women and 15% were men. Some 44% of women felt unsafe walking alone at night in 2003, compared with just 18% of men. In 2004-05, 6% of males and just 1% of females had a charge proved against them.

Men and women are now treated equally in divorce. Until 1964, income, savings, properties and other assets of the partners were regarded as separate, which greatly advantaged men. Assets accumulated during marriage are now considered to be equally shared for divorce and inheritance purposes. On the death of a family member or friend, women have only recently attended the gravesite. In certain remote areas, post-burial gatherings can still be a male-dominated, extended alcoholic ritual.

In general, there remains room for improvement in the status of women compared with men in Scotland. Men still dominate public life as well as professional and managerial positions in the workforce. Areas such as engineering, construction, manufacturing, and transport have far more men, while those such as office work, personal care, and social work are largely female. On average, women earn about 85% of what men earn. In education and health, the status of women is better than that of men, while women are catching up in most other areas.