Influence and dominance among LO women and men

Labour market LO has, with a certain degree of regularity, mapped women’s and men’s access to decision-making and other influential bodies within LO and the affiliated unions. The latest mapping was made in 2002 and it showed a considerable shortage of women in all the decision-making bodies of the union movement.

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Three essential conclusions

Firstly, there is an upward trend. The number of women has increased in many decision-making bodies. This is the case as regards, i.a., delegates to the LO Congresses and General Council and the districts as well as women representation in the affiliated unions. The representation in these bodies is close to on a par with the distribution according to sex in the membership in general. The number of women also increases in the executive committees of the affiliated unions and branches. As regards office staff, and not the least among office managers, a positive trend is noticeable.

Secondly, in spite of the positive trend, men's dominance seems to be intact in the most important positions. In the LO Executive Committee and Negotiation Council, as well as in the leadership of the affiliated unions, time seems to stand still. There is again a male dominance in the LO leadership for the first time since 1994. Only 50 per cent of the affiliated unions have women representation in their leadership and there is fewer women totally (10) in the leadership of the affiliated unions compared to the total number of LO affiliated unions (14). This shows that the trend towards equal access to influence for women and men cannot be taken for granted.

Thirdly, the circumstances play an important part. An efficient method to achieve equal representation among the sexes must be based on practical and institutional conditions.  It is a matter of taking into consideration the potent segregation of sexes in the labour market – and  the ensuing effects on the LO affiliated unions. The membership segregated by sex influences, to a high degree, the LO's as well as the affiliated unions' representation pattern  and the possibility of achieving changes in the near future.

The report puts the work with representation in the light of the LO work with social class and gender in general. LO has made several positive contributions to strengthening the equality in the organisation. The efforts have, however, often been limited and tied to specific individuals. This has resulted in an insufficient continuity and evaluations of the long-term effects are non-existent.  The report, furthermore, shows that the affiliated unions' work methods to achieve equality differ. The overall conclusion of the report is that a strategic, long-term and united plan of action is required in order to improve equality.

Gunilla Persson
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