A Woman’s Place—Women’s Separate Organizing in Unions
For the last two decades, the literature on women and trade unions has placed considerable emphasis on the signifi cance of separate organizing for sustaining and developing a critical mass of women leaders at multiple hierarchical levels. The idea is that women’s groups are not only about women, but also solely for women and being women-only they create the opportunities for women to gain support from one another, share ideas, tactics and strategies and for senior women to mentor the less experienced without the opportunity for men to take centre stage as is so frequently the case in the union environment (e.g. Briskin 2008; Colgan and Ledwith 2002a; Kirton and Healy 1999; 2004). This chapter draws on empirical data to ask how relevant and valuable are these women’s groups and spaces today? In the light of intellectual, philosophical and practical challenges to the notion of universal womanhood, this chapter will also consider how women’s groups construct and work with women’s difference.