SAVAGE and ROSS: How women are changing the face of Canada’s union leadership

Larry Savage, Professor of Labour Studies at Brock University, and Stephanie Ross, Associate Professor and Director of the School of Labour Studies at McMaster University, had a piece recently published in The Conversation about the need for more women to be in senior leadership roles within the organized labour movement.

They write:

“As Labour Day approaches, close your eyes and picture the typical union member in Canada. If you conjured an image of a man wearing a hard hat or working in a factory, you missed the mark. 

The typical union member in Canada is actually a woman who works in the public sector. She may be a teacher, a nurse, an office clerk at city hall or a mail carrier. All of these jobs are more likely to be unionized than those in the majority-male manufacturing, warehousing or construction sectors. In fact, Statistics Canada’s Labour Force Survey data reveals that, as of 2019, women made up 53.1 per cent of union members. That’s up from 45.8 per cent in 1998 and 29 per cent in 1978.

There’s no question that women benefit from unionization. Being unionized boosts women’s wages more than it does men’s, when both are compared to their non-union counterparts. 

Unionized women also experience a much smaller gender pay gap when compared to unionized men. In other words, unions help women overcome the effects of gender discrimination in the workplace. This “union advantage” is even greater for women who are affected by other forms of systemic discrimination.

Despite becoming numerically dominant within unions, women are still under-represented in positions of union leadership. The number of women leading national unions in Canada today can be counted on one hand. And women currently lead only three of the country’s provincial and territorial federations of labour.”

Continue reading the full article here.

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