9th Conference European Sociological Association

RN17 Industrial Relations, Labour Market Institutions and Employment

2009-09-05 13:30:00 2009-09-05 15:00:00 Saturday, 5 September 13:30 - 15:00 Old and New Actors in Industrial Relations Building AA, AA.223

Women and trade union positions - warm welcome or hitting the glass ceiling?

The paper will discuss women?s representation and gender equality politics in Norwegian trade unions. Is the trade union movement mirroring the entry of Norwegian women into most political positions? Or are these traditional organisations still more male-dominated than would be expected in the Nordic labour markets with high female labour market participation? The paper is based on several quantitative studies on women?s representation in trade union positions combined with qualitative interviews.
The blue collar trade union movement (LO/affiliated unions) was for a long time regarded as a man?s domain. Over time women have not only entered the labour market but also joined trade unions ? including many of the LO-affiliated unions - where the number of female members was more than doubled over the last 30 years whereas the number of male members actually decreased. Still the trade union movement also mirrors the gender divided Norwegian labour market, and the percentage of women varies from 2 percent till nearly 90 percent among the 21 LO-unions. The relevant questions are therefore not only how the most traditional of the Norwegian union confederations meets its increasing number of female members and potential union representatives, but also how gender representation and gender issues are handled in a confederation where the number of women varies from almost not present till a strong majority.
Our main research questions are:
Have the increasing number of female union members led to more women in the top positions of the union movement, or do we see a glass ceiling where men still dominate the top positions?
What are the gender equality policy and ambitions of male-dominated unions compared to female-dominated unions? Are a female majority taking better care of their male members when it comes to representation than vice-versa? Is gender representation still an issue in organisations where women make up a majority?
What do unions do to recruit women as union representatives? and to keep them? Do unions need to adapt to a more family-friendly organisation not only to recruit women as shop stewards, but also to meet the priorities of their younger male members?