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Shetland Women@Work Feasibility Study

Earlier this year we were approached by Shetland Islands Council's equality officer regarding our work around gender segregation. Shetland Islands Council had identified a gap in their provision. We were able to provide information on activities that W@W had carried out and had discussed briefly the possibility of working together.


In October the WEA Educational Development Manager for Inverness Sue Mitchell and I flew to Shetland. The visit allowed us to connect with local projects, build partnerships and assess the current provision. Also identify potential staff and participants. The feasibility study will look at the possibility of employing a Local Network Co-ordinator in Shetland to organise W@W events and link with the main W@W project.

Horizontal and Vertical Segregation
Shetland has a booming local economy with jobs in the oil, gas and manufacturing sector. These jobs are mainly filled by men. Unemployment stands at a very low 1.5%. With a shortage of local skilled workers employers have resourced workers from outside the area. There are 2,000 men; living on 4 floating accommodation barges in the local area, another barge is on route.

In Shetland there are a lack of jobs in the public sector, and with cutbacks on the horizon, more of these jobs will go. Many of the public sector jobs are part time and are staffed by women working in the traditional roles of cleaning, catering, caring, cashiering and clerical (5C's). Women are also well represented in the Shetland craft industries.

The new jobs cannot be filled by women as the local women are not equipped with the skills to take up many of these new vacancies. It was felt that Shetland women had many transferable skills, but were currently unaware of them. Horizontal segregation (Horizontal segregation arises when men and women do different types of work) is an equality issue for the Shetland Islands Council.

Vertical segregation (where women are under-represented in the better-paid and more senior positions).
The Shetland Islands Council has 5 Executive Directors, 3 are women, 1 man and the other post is currently being advertised. There are 22 Shetland Islands Councillors only 3 are women. Only one of the women has her picture on the Shetland Islands Council website http://www.shetland.gov.uk/about_your_councillors/

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