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Equate hires former shadow Scots Secretary Laird

Lesley Laird: ‘working together’

Former Shadow Scottish Secretary Lesley Laird has been appointed director of Equate Scotland, the organisation which campaigns for gender equality throughout the science, technology, engineering and maths sectors (STEM).

The ex-Fife MP takes the helm at the height of the Covid-19 crisis and believes the pandemic has positively demonstrated the way people can break down barriers and adapt to change in difficult circumstances.

Equate Scotland, based at Edinburgh Napier University and Scottish Government-funded, works to change cultures in industry and the academic world, supporting the recruitment, retention and progression of women in science, engineering and technology.

Ms Laird, who has had an extensive and varied career, worked in HR roles within the technology and financial services sectors before entering politics in 2012 where she held a number of senior roles, most recently as MP for Kirkcaldy and Cowdenbeath.

She said: “The glass ceiling of flexible work patterns and working from home has been well and truly smashed. Given what we have all been through, the old arguments of it’s too hard, it’s too complex, it’s too inconvenient, it will cost too much, won’t stack up.  It’s not about going back, but about how we work together to go forward from here.

“Through Covid-19, Equate has been adapting too; refocusing on how best we can fulfil our purpose of increasing women’s participation in STEM, building and campaigning for equality in the workplace and society.”

Ms Laird, who is joined at Equate by team members Susan Lancaster, as finance and operations coordinator, and Jenny Lester, as events and marketing organiser, said that as an equalities organisation, they were also conscious of the current and historic discriminations experienced by people of colour.

Ms Laird states that, through their work, they are committed to amplifying and supporting the voices of women of colour as they “challenge the conscious and unconscious biases that create barriers and prevent Black, Asian and Minority Ethnic women from entering and succeeding in the STEM sector.”

Her predecessor as director, Talat Yaqoob, said: “The organisation has made a tangible positive difference for women across the STEM sectors; by providing development opportunities for women, delivering placements to support skills growth and, crucially, challenging and changing inequality in workplace cultures.”

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