“Helping more women into work is a top priority for the SNP Government as we seek to speed up the recovery of our nation’s economy.
“We want women to be at the heart of our vision of a reindustrialised Scotland – and we are doing all we can to achieve that.
“We want to put an end to the idea that some jobs ‘just aren’t for women’ and create a level playing field for all.
“That’s why it was great to hear the First Minister announce a new £250,000 initiative aimed at encouraging more young females to consider employment in fields such as science and engineering.
“My aim is that the work we take forward, through this new scheme in particular, leads to other actions that balance the workforce.
“For a start, we want to see better careers advice. It is vital that schoolgirls, from an early age, are given help to make the right subject choices to enable them to progress through education and training toward the widest range of job opportunities possible. Early support for all children will have a positive impact on the entire workforce.
“Reaching out to parents and influencing them is another way to ensure young people make better career-related decisions. We can do this by celebrating positive female role models in enterprise and encouraging them to share their success stories.
“I have been delighted to see more and more women land apprenticeships but there are areas where the gender balance is still out of sync.
“We also have to overcome occupational segregation by challenging employers to change their culture. Clearly this is a long-term challenge but one in which everyone can get involved.
“And let’s not forget childcare, which is vital to support and boost female employment. The SNP Government is tackling this through plans to deliver the best package of flexible early learning and childcare in the UK.
“However, as we highlighted at the recent Women’s Employment Summit, childcare is not solely an issue for women. All parents need support to meet their childcare responsibilities.
“This is a challenge for employers and one they must take seriously for their own sake and the sake of families and society.
“The First Minister has highlighted the importance of early years support and its links to prevention. This is something which is a commitment across the Government.
“The Women’s Employment Summit is the start of a dialogue to get fresh impetus in working towards long-term change.
“And I am confident we will begin to see improvements in female employment as a result of the new initiative announced by the First Minister, leading to a fairer and more diverse Scottish workforce.”