It’s almost a year since the Scottish Funding Council (SFC) published its Gender Action Plan. For the first time, it sets out how SFC will work to tackle gender imbalance across the full spectrum of its activities in further and higher education.
As many people reading this will know, SFC’s work extends to that crucially important area where further and higher education connects with industry and the economy. Interface, of course, is one of SFC’s key agents and partners in this sphere. The establishment of Interface pretty much coincided with my arrival at the Scottish Funding Council and one of the most satisfying and energising parts of my job has been helping to communicate the success of Interface in bridging the gap between academia and businesses that want to innovate.
So Interface is very much part of SFC’s world and now seems a good time to celebrate the part it is playing not only in the future Scottish economy but in championing gender equality.
Statistics are always great but for a media specialist the human interest stories win every time! So while the figures are really encouraging (almost a third of applications for Interface funding have been led by females and over a third of academics delivering Interface programmes so far are female) the stories themselves paint the more vivid picture.
One of my favourite Interface stories is that of Sgaia Foods. The company is led by Hilary Masin who used her home kitchen as a launchpad for a business that’s really starting to make its mark in the Scottish food industry. The idea, brought to life through a partnership with Abertay University, is to lead the way to an ethical, healthy lifestyle while helping people stay true to their traditional culinary heritage. You’ve not seen anything if you’ve yet to see the amazing array of vegan culinary wizardry on the Sgaia Foods website.
Applying technology and science in another area, Alison Grieve is an entrepreneur on a mission to change the way the world holds things. The University of the West of Scotland proved the ergonomic benefits of G-Hold, a device invented by Alison that can be placed on the back of any tablet to make holding it more comfortable. As well as avoiding strains, G-Hold lets you do other things (like writing and drawing) while using your iPad - how brilliant is that?!
Moving into yet another industry area, Uan Wool was founded by Julie Hermitage who also runs a sheep farm in Angus. Julie wanted to know how to capitalise on the natural temperature regulating, breathable and flame retardant properties of wool. She worked with Heriot Watt University and launched Uan Wool’s first product range a couple of years ago at the Royal Highland Show.
There are lots more stories like this in the Interface casebook file and lots more women in Scotland like Hilary, Alison and Julie. Their contribution to the Scottish economy is important and amazing and exciting but perhaps most of all, to young women who want to make a difference - they are an inspiration for what the future could hold for them too.