Women’s Groups & Equality in British Trade Unions

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Within industrial relations, the mainstream literature has not shown much interest in women as the subjects or shapers of research. This study shows the centrality of women’s organizing to unionism and women’s experience of unions, and provides insights into the circumstances necessary for women’s sustained activism. It examines union operations and how women’s groups influence, and are influenced by, them. It contributes an original analysis of the organizational ‘identity’ of individual unions and women’s groups. It also examines the complex relations between unions and their women’s groups within particular institutions, including the little-examined area of women’s engagement in less formal as well as mainstream union activity.


“Jane Parker has produced a detailed and fascinating account of the conditions, processes and consequences of women’s groups exploring their emergence, objectives and transformative potential. Drawing on detailed research in MSF and USDAW, she highlights how women’s groups are a strategic and historical response to women’s experience of disadvantage and subordination. Parker demonstrates how these groups can respond to women’s concerns, build on their strengths and produce empowering effects. Highly recommended.” – Professor David Collinson, Lancaster University

“This book contributes to important debates about democracy, participation, power and change. At its core is rich empirical material sensitively analysed to aid our understanding of equality initiatives within British trade unions….It will repay reading by students not only in industrial relations, but also in sociology, political science and gender studies, and will interest and assist those practically engaged in promoting equality.” - Professor Linda Dickens, University of Warwick

Table of Contents

Table of Contents:
Foreword; Preface
1. Gender Equality in British Unions: The Role of Women’s Groups
2. Research Design
3. Linking Union Identity and Women’s Groups
4. Women’s Groups in MSF
5. Women’s Groups in USDAW
6. The Meaning of Women’s Groups
7. Where To From Here?
Appendix; Bibliography; Indices

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