COMING from the world of business Elizabeth Passey has been impressed by the progress made on gender balance in higher education.

In more than twenty years working in the financial services sector she has witnessed first hand attitudes which prevent women from breaking through into senior roles.

Now serving as convener of Glasgow's University's ruling Court, she said: "The financial services sector has a poor set of diversity statistics which are significantly lower than higher education.

"I have had situations where a company secretary said they had no need of women on their board because they were involved in a heavy industrial business that was predominantly male.

"I would say the higher education sector is well ahead of the corporate sector, but it is important not to be complacent because otherwise you can take a step back."

Ms Passey, who graduated from Glasgow University in 1994 with a first class honours degree in history and management, highlighted a number of improvements which could keep the fight for gender parity on track.

She said work at Glasgow University to reduce the burden of paperwork on lay members was critical and should be adopted elsewhere.

"Having less paperwork makes the role much more accessible because there can be a lack of confidence amongst those who have not been in the hot seat before and a sense that they need to read everything cover to cover," she said.

"When you have hundreds of pages that can be quite daunting and has put people off, but something as simple as having better summaries makes the role much more accessible."

She also called for greater use of technology to enable Court members with other commitments to take part in meetings without attending in person.

"It would not work for the full Court meetings, but by using technology you could bring talent in from areas that are further afield for things like sub committee meetings."

She believes government targets for gender equality on boards have made a significant difference because it has made institutions question why they don't have strong female candidates on their shortlists.

Equally important is a culture change where traditional male stereotypes are no longer seen as "the only option" for leadership roles.

"In the past there have been perceptions of what makes you successful and that can be the way you dress, having a certain tone of voice or certain mannerisms and to get to the top table there is pressure to behave in that way so you have to change yourself," she said.

"Now what we are saying is that we should not be expecting people to change and we should be welcoming them in whoever they are because it is that diversity that will strengthen our organisations."