COMPANY bosses need to question “whether or not they really do understand what’s going on in their organisations” on the back of the recent sexual harassment scandals, the UK Government's business equality tsar has said.

Sir Philip Hampton – who co-authored a review of women in senior leadership positions – said allegations in Westminster and Hollywood had caused him to reflect on whether he was focusing on the right things.

He said: “What Westminster showed and Hollywood showed, is that these things were happening, and women did not feel able to raise them.

"They thought it would be an impediment to their careers if they were raised. And that's a really big concern, if very often strong-minded, highly intelligent, highly sophisticated women feel that they can't talk about these things.

"So my own expectation – certainly my profound hope – is that large companies, and all companies, will have processes and structures to make sure they get a grip of this.”

Sir Philip was addressing an audience of business leaders at an event hosted by the Bank of Scotland in Edinburgh, where First Minister Nicola Sturgeon also spoke.

Alongside the late Dame Helen Alexander, he previously published a report commissioned by the UK Government which set out recommendations for FTSE companies to increase the number of women on their boards.

He said events in Westminster and Hollywood had caused the pair to reflect on whether their emphasis on business effectiveness, fairness and equality was enough.

He added: "Because whilst it's true that business has not yet been put into any of the lurid spotlights that have arisen in Westminster and Hollywood, I think business leaders do need to question whether or not they really do understand what's going on in their organisations.”

Sir Philip, chairman of GlaxoSmithKline and former chairman of RBS, said it was “vital” women feel safe in their work environment and are able to raise concerns about harassment.

He added: "So that I think is a new focus, frankly, that we all ought to have, to make sure that those systems work."

Ms Sturgeon said the case for gender equality in business was a “basic moral issue”, labelling the current situation an “injustice”.

She said companies must “inject new momentum” into improving women’s representation to prevent progress slowing.