‘Slow and patchy’ progress for women seeking a voice in UK’s biggest unions

Women are playing an increasingly prominent role in the UK’s biggest trade unions, according to a survey by Labour Research magazine.

The magazine surveyed the 10 biggest TUC-affiliated unions to find out how well their women members are represented in decision-making structures and in regional and national offices.

It found two of the top 10 unions – teachers’ unions NASUWT and ATL – now have female general secretaries union delegations to the TUC conference are becoming less male-dominated and more unions are achieving a gender balance among their national officials.

However, the biannual study said progress towards full representation was proving “slow and patchy”.

In some areas, the level of female representation has declined. Five of the top 10 unions reported a decrease in the number of women on their national executives, and only the T&G section of Unite had an executive that was proportionally as ‘female’ as its overall membership.

“The results of our survey are really encouraging, but they highlight areas where unions need to make improvements,” said Labour Research editor Nathalie Towner.

“It is disappointing to see that women’s representation has dropped in certain areas, such as on some union national executives, but overall there is clear progress compared with the 2006 survey.”

Labour Research is published by the Labour Research Department, an independent labour movement organisation.

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