by Councillor Gail Casey

After all the publicity around the gender pay gap and sexual harassment in major industries I am pleased to say that our local council has supported the equality and advancement of women in the workplace.

We have senior female staff in some very important positions including, of course, our chief executive. We have in the past had female leaders of the council and the majority of council workers are women.

It was not always plain sailing, though, as equal pay for women was a long and difficult process.

The phrase “glass ceiling” was first used back in 1978 and referred to the invisible barrier to women gaining senior management positions.

The workplace culture has changed since then but there are still impediments to female advancement today.

The announcement by the Scottish Government that there will be an increase in free childcare hours is most welcome. I do not, however, feel that this policy will be as useful as it first appears.

Working mothers require affordable and available childcare and unfortunately full time women workers miss out because of the restrictive opening hours of council-run nurseries.

The part-time working culture these days does not really benefit some parts of our society and women especially find it difficult to take on full time, better paid positions due to childcare responsibilities.

It does help of course if you have family nearby to drop off and pick up children but full time employment uptake for women has not really increased that much over the past few years - and 76 per cent of part time workers are women.

Some mothers choose to work part time, or not at all, but they should at least have the choice. Local councils cannot be left to pick up the tab for implementing this policy and politicians need to realise that proper planning and funding is required before they start to celebrate their great ideas.

Another great idea to provide poorer children with year-round free school meals, including holidays and weekends, is being tested in North Lanarkshire and seems like an obvious opportunity for praise.

I hope it works but is it financially viable for local councils alone? I will watch this one very closely.