Labour History: A Journal of Labour and Social History

Transforming Unionism by Organising? An Examination of the ‘Gender Revolution’ in New Zealand Trade Unionism since 1975

Labour History: A Journal of Labour and Social History (2003), 84, (1), 89–111.

Abstract

The proportion of women in trade union movements has increased in all industrialised countries since the 1970s, but these changes have been particularly dramatic in New Zealand. Research has understandably focused on the long period of women’s marginalisation. However this paper, based on an oral history project, Toa Wahine, focuses on the period from the 1970s when both women’s rank and file and their executive representation increased to proportions that were almost equal to their workforce participation. The role of separate women’s structures is seen as crucial to this gender transformation while the influence of the ‘organizing model of unionism’, which is said to have promoted union democracy and feminised union culture, is seen to have been exaggerated. Above all a New Zealand case study suggests that it is as increasingly inappropriate to assume women’s marginality as it is their political unanimity within the trade union movement. These conclusions may seem obvious, but most studies of gender in trade unions continue to examine men and women in oppositional terms and emphasise change in terms of the simple adoption of strategy. The oral histories of New Zealand women trade union leaders suggests otherwise.

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Details

Author details

Nolan, Melanie

Ryan, Shaun

Table of Contents

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