The purpose of this article is to explore the under‐representation of women in union leadership in Barbados. The article asks if there are specific conditions faced by women there or if the barriers for Barbadian women are the same or similar to those facing union women in developed countries.
The study was a small qualitative one. In‐depth interviews were carried out in 2007‐2008 with 17 women leaders from the two dominant general unions in Barbados, from two smaller female‐dominated unions and an international union federation.
The findings show that many of the barriers union women in developed countries face are also encountered in Barbados, including family and domestic and workplace/union. However, the paper shows that the local context of Barbados produces a locally specific version of oppressive gender relations that impact on union women and their ability to access leadership. In particular, the “male marginalisation thesis” holds purchase in the public mindset and has created a backlash against one of the major strategies for addressing women's under‐representation in unions – women's separate organising.
This was a small study based on one Caribbean island and the findings do not necessarily apply to the wider region. Nevertheless, it raises sufficient questions about gender relations in union in the Caribbean to warrant further investigation both by unions and academics.
There is little in the international literature on women and unions in the Caribbean region.
Kirton, G. and Healy, G. (2012), "Women's union leadership in Barbados: exploring the local within the global", Leadership & Organization Development Journal, Vol. 33 No. 8, pp. 732-749. https://doi.org/10.1108/01437731211280802Download as .RIS
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