Scotland Communities and society, Welfare and equalities

The Status of Young Women in Scotland

Image supplied by: YWCA

YWCA Scotland –  The Young Women’s Movement is a feminist organisation with 160 years history of advocating for voices of young women being heard, celebrated and respected, and part of a worldwide movement of women leading change.

Status of Young Women in Scotland is an original piece of research we launched in 2015 to highlight the realities of life for young women in Scotland. We wanted to create a platform for young women’s voices on representation and discrimination, and we made Status research one of our flagship annual projects.

The Status of Young Women in Scotland

The Status of Young Women in Scotland Report 2018 is the third of our ground-breaking piece of research conducted in partnership with social research agency The Lines Between who interviewed 44 young women, and analysed responses from 443 young women who completed an in-depth online survey. This report does not attempt to be representative of every young woman in Scotland, but we worked hard to ensure that the report includes views of a diverse group of young women, including young women from rural and urban Scotland, young women with a disability or long-term condition, young women with experience of the care system, BAME young women, and LGBTQ young women. Together, we explored young women’s engagement in politics, representation and activism in Scotland.

The research uncovered some common themes regarding the limitations and barriers facing young women. While so many young women are involved across a wide spectrum of meaningful activities, they highlighted the persistent limitations and barriers they are facing, such as a sense of under-representation, a lack of appropriate opportunities, and the feeling that the current political system is not designed to encourage and facilitate young women’s involvement. Examples include a lack of maternity leave available for local councillors and the demands of the roles in public office do not fit well with the societal expectations on women or with having a family. Others suggested the low salaries for local councillors make it difficult for young women to consider a career in politics.

We are never going to get gender balanced political representation until councillors have a doable role and are paid well”– SYWS 18 participant

“There are also additional barriers for disabled women, for women of colour. There is only one woman of colour in [my council] and she wears a hijab as well. She was running for a leadership position and she received really derogatory comments from her own party implying that she would get a sympathy vote. These things do exist. Biases do exist” – SYWS 18 participant

We would like to invite you to join The Young Women’s Movement in committing to defy the barriers that young women face in entering the political sphere. This year we are running the final year of our leadership programme for young women, Young Women Lead, which gives young women access to the Scottish Parliament and an opportunity to set up their own parliamentary committee, and we are currently looking at developing a similar programme aimed at exploring young women’s engagement at a local government level.

The Status of Young Women in Scotland

If you would like to hear more about it or get involved please get in touch with Patrycja at