Labour Union Leadership and Gender Equality Challenges: Evidence from Kenya’s Electrical Traders and Allied Workers Union
Keywords:labour union leadership, female union members, gender inequality
The research investigates the challenges female union members encounter while seeking or assuming labour union leadership positions. Using evidence from Kenya’s Electrical Traders and Allied Workers Union, this article aims at identifying sociocultural barriers, role conflict, and structural constraints on women in relation to gender inequality. The article is based on exploratory research using data comprising both qualitative and quantitative data obtained from interviewing 63 female respondents who were identified using a non-probability sampling procedure referred to as snowballing. The research revealed a significant proportion of the respondents observed that patriarchal union structures favour men, but hinder women from accessing leadership positions. Most viewed the trade union leadership roles as demanding and burdensome and therefore incompatible with their culturally designated family roles. Institutionalised sexism in the trade union discouraged women from assuming leadership positions, since they are unlikely to penetrate the male-dominated informal leadership lobbies and networks in the trade union. The study concludes that the union, and by extension the umbrella trade union movement, should adopt and implement affirmative actions that are focused to maintain women in union leadership structures.
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