Scots `block road to equality'

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The equality group Opportunity 2000 has encountered "male chauvinism" on a grand scale in Scotland, according to sources close to the organisation.

Of all the regions in the United Kingdom, Scotland is the most resistant to the promotion of women to senior positions in industry, the source said.

The pressure group, which enjoys John Major's support, has experienced considerable difficulties in recruiting senior directors of Scottish firms to provide leadership.

Despite the group's growing appeal in England and Wales, where it has 277 members, Opportunity 2000 has only 13 members in Scotland and, of these, most are in the public or financial sectors.

The source said: "Most Scottish businessmen seem to think the woman's place is in the kitchen." Industry there is controlled by a "male Mafia", the source said, adding that Scotsmen were fairly misogynistic.

Pat Corcoran, Opportunity 2000 campaign director, believes the situation will improve with economic recovery and as Scottish firms become more aware of the campaign. The organisation has also recruited Charles Barker, the public relations company, to boost their efforts. Ms Corcoran distanced herself from the assertions made by the source, but conceded: "There is strong resistance in Scotland to the idea that women have the right to be in a workplace."

Opportunity 2000 has also encountered difficulties is Northern Ireland. The source, however, said it was more understandable in the Province, where male unemployment had stood at 25 per cent for many years.

In its annual report last autumn, Opportunity 2000 argued that one of the main obstacles it faced was the attitude of women themselves. Many, it said, object to being seen as "a special case".

Some at the organisation believe that the campaign had run into the sand, partly because of the recession and partly because of a "backlash" from men.

nBusiness In The Community, the organisation which launch-ed Opportunity 2000, is to establish Race for Opportunity, a group to promote a similar programme on behalf of ethnic minorities.