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|Professional women's experiences of trade unionism : understanding enablers and barriers to participation
|Ewington, Eve Mary
|The composition of trade union membership in the UK has changed: the traditional image of white, male, manual workers has been replaced with a feminised professional profile. Despite this, women’s participation levels remain low and women remain underrepresented at all levels of trade union hierarchies (Kirton, 2005). As a consequence, the gendered nature of work remains side-lined on the trade union agenda (Munro, 2001; Kirton and Healy, 2013). Working class identity has long been associated with trade unionism (Moore, 2011) but this raises questions around how professionals, arguably situated within the middle classes, identify with their trade unions. Using data from 41 semi-structured interviews with unionised women in professional and managerial roles in the UK Civil Service, this thesis explores the intersections of class, gender, and professional and trade unionist identity. In doing so, the ways in which professional women identify with and experience trade unionism are examined. The findings suggest that both individualist and collectivist benefits of union membership are important membership motivators, with professional development opportunities placed alongside collective bargaining as significant motivators for participation. Managerial identity is seen as associated with risk and demands union protection. Public service ethos is conducive to union membership. However, gendered structural inequalities in the workplace are replicated within trade union hierarchies, restricting women’s opportunities to participate and consequently limiting the trade union agenda to the concerns of the traditional (male, full-time) worker. The trade union reinforces organisational messages which regulate identity both in the public and private sphere, making motherhood a particular barrier to participation. Homogeneity amongst trade union officials damages perceptions of union instrumentality thereby reducing identification with the union for many women.
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|Newcastle University Business School
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|Ewington W 2019.pdf
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