BUSINESSES must “inject new momentum” into improving women’s representation, Nicola Sturgeon has said.

The First Minister warned public tolerance of gender inequality “has never been lower” – with organisations facing reputational damage if they are too slow to change.

Ms Sturgeon was addressing senior business leaders at a Hampton-Alexander Review event hosted by the Bank of Scotland in Edinburgh.

The independent review, commissioned by the UK Government, set out recommendations for FTSE companies to increase the number of women on their boards.

Ms Sturgeon said: “The Hampton-Alexander Review highlights some clear improvements made in boardroom gender equality in recent years. While welcome, these changes are not nearly enough. Indeed, there are signs progress slowed or even stalled in 2017.

“This year, which marks the centenary of woman’s suffrage in the UK, is an opportunity to inject new momentum into improving female representation – not simply at board level, but across the economy as a whole.

“As a result of the wide-ranging debate on inappropriate behaviour and sexual harassment against women, there is rightly more scrutiny on equality in the workplace than ever before. There is also increased transparency about board appointments and pay.

“Public tolerance of gender inequality has never been lower. And the reputational damage to organisations that are too slow to make change – be they businesses, political parties or others – has never been higher.

“Many companies now realise that more equal representation in the boardroom, and in senior positions, improves businesses and benefits the bottom line. Crucially, it is an important step in achieving gender equality across society, as we work together to create a fairer and more prosperous Scotland.”

Around one in four FTSE 100 board members are women, with a target of one in three set for 2020.