FORMER local MP, 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 former MP for Kirkcaldy and Cowdenbeath 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.

The organisation delivers confidence-boosting training and support for women at each stage of their career, develops their skills and expertise, provides networking opportunities, and works with employers to improve employment practices and behaviours.

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 until the General Election in December.

Ms Laird said: “I am delighted to join Equate as its new Director – albeit remotely for the moment.

“The way organisations and people have had to adapt to change in recent weeks and months has demonstrated how barriers can be broken down.

“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".

She added: “Through Covid-19, Equate has been adapting too; re-focusing 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.”

The former MP and member of Fife Council said the fantastic team at Equate had been helping employers by delivering high quality interactive on-line training, and consultancy support to develop ‘build back better’ strategies.

“We’ve launched new programmes, as well as refreshing what we do and how we do it; continuing to reach out to future women technologists, engineers, scientists and construction workers; and the businesses who need all the talents of all our people to rebuild our economy and are prepared to embrace more open and inclusive work practices, so that we can all contribute to the challenges ahead.

"Equate recognise that we will have to continue to evolve and adapt the ways in which we support women into STEM and address inequality.”