Gender and Diversifying Trade Union Leadership

genderingThis book is a tour de force that seeks to answer the complexities that surround the questions linked to gendered understanding of leadership. It adds appreciably scholarly knowledge to the issues related to leadership, union democracy and gender. It shares certain aporetic quality via generating intellectually rigorous critique on patriarchal culture of the trade union leadership. Canonical connections that exist between theoretical traditions on trade union and the nature of day to day praxis has subjected to densely argued invigorations and thus transcends the limits of class analysis to the intersections of ethnic minorities, middle class and migrants to that of the field of trade unions. Chapters in this book invest in dissecting the ways in theoretical innovations linked to  intersectionality,post-structuralism and masculinity impact on the theoretical investigations in this area. It unfolds the complex relationship between trade union and intersecting new forms of identities. Broadly ,Lise Lotte Hansen and Sue Ledwith in their posits introductory chapter as an open ended space to further debates on feminised leadership that challenges conventional masculine leadership and departs from the traditional approach of Human Relations School on trade unions.

Main preoccupations of the contributors in this book are largely about the permanence of the patriarchal culture that plagues trade unions. Barbara Pocock and Karen Brown  in their chapter maps the co-existence of  gendered differences and aspirations for transformational leadership  in the trade union discourse of Australia. On the other hand, Michelle Kaminski and Jailza Pauly initiates a socialist feminist reading  that investigates how gender and race that are situated within capitalism impact trade unions. They do emphasise on the need of women leaders as inevitable for the contemporary labour movement .Lisa Lotte Hansen in her chapter is a postmodern reading that deploys Sondergaardian re-reading of Judith Butler’s understanding of gender. Thus, it attempts to argue that leadership and gender are entwined to schemes of organisational values and resources that do not allow individual women to articulate within the gendered unequal Danish labour movement. In a passionate theoretical move ,Sue Ledwith enquires how does the ‘masculine’is done  and undone by men and women and in turn subjects the riddling aspects that are integral to the process of gendered leadership .Tuula Heiskanen and Riitta Lavikka draws our attention to the gendered struggles of a union leader Alice who caught in the ideological transition from that of Taylorism to flexibility .Linda Briskin marks a shift away from the earlier chapters by unsettling the common sense perceptions on merit, individualism and solidarity in Canada’s progressive public sector union and raises perennial reflection such as whether to prioritise ethnicity and gender over performance. Sally Alvarez and Pam Whitlefield probes whether the union campaigns based on earlier categories of community unionism, social movement unionism and coalition unionism can revamp the leadership and organising in the United States. Leadership development is discussed by Joanna Cain’s study that reflects on the role of women leaders as learners in Eastern and Western European trade unions. Similarly,Gill Kirton,Geraldine Healey,Sally Alvarez,Mary Gatta,Risa Lieberwitz and Heather Mckay collectively ponders pedagogic relevance of feminist praxis that is required for women leaders and re-visits meaningfully the intersectionist approach as well as thinks whether ‘gender’ as well as ‘other identities’ can be addressed simultaneously to push the idea of leadership. At the same time, certain perceptions of women leadership that is ingrained in gender mainstreaming is critiqued via positing the idea of gender equality is carried out by Anja Kirsch in her study on German service sector union Ver.di.Cecile Guillaume and Sophie Pochic talks about whether policies espouse internal equality or feminist identity determine women leadership in the French trade unions’ context.Akua Britwum focuses on the gender democracy that shatters male norms. Saskia Ravesloot demonstrates the manner in which ‘women-unfriendly trade union practices’ disrupt the leadership of women in the light of Belgian trade unions. The concluding chapter by Sue Ledwith and Lise Lotte Hansen reflexively touches upon the epistemological and ontological futures concerned with the field of gendered leadership.

Contributors have advanced in very far in articulating the predicaments on the gendered leadership. These chapters are deep and systematic works in the field of gender and trade union studies: also expands criticality to undermine the theoretical blocks that stricture explorations required to map the connections between gender, race and leadership. It is a readable book that provokes us to rethink about the icy indifference of patriarchal trade union cultures that evades other social articulations based on gender and race. The one pertinent question that left that can be sought is to how the diverse, epistemological nature of the feminist critique to the patriarchal character of trade unions persists throughout the world.

Authors : Sue Ledwith and Lise Lotte Hansen(Edited)

Title      :  Gender and Diversifying Trade Union Leadership

New York :Routledge,2013,$ 125.00,(ISBN:978-0-415-88485-3),338 pp.

Reviewed by : Smita M Patil

Assistant Professor

School of Gender and Development Studies

Indira Gandhi National University

New Delhi,India-10067


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