Friday, February 8, 2013
Improving the working conditions of all American workers must include considering the voices of one group traditionally underrepresented in union ranks and leadership — women. In this paper, I explore the interrelationship between women, unions, and women’s willingness to negotiate. Despite the tumultuous history of women’s involvement in the unionized labor market, women’s participation in unions is increasing relative to men. Recent studies also reveal that women significantly benefit from union representation, even more significantly than men. One reason for this disparity is that many women have not been very successful in negotiating on their own behalf. For many reasons explored in this paper, many women have been socialized to be uncomfortable negotiating for what they deserve. Thus, women benefit by participating in unions, where the negotiation is done on their behalf, and we should be encouraging women’s involvement in unions. Furthermore, women are still grossly underrepresented in union leadership roles. Because studies show that women are more likely to join a union when there are more women leaders, increasing the number of female union leaders should lead to an increase in women’s participation in unions. More women in leadership roles also has the potential to improve the overall success of the union, garner more attention to issues important to women, and bring a new perspective to union/management negotiation. Even though the negotiation literature suggests that women are often unwilling to negotiate on their own behalf, this paper will demonstrate they are very willing to and effective at negotiating on behalf of others. Finally, I will demonstrate how effective women can be as leaders and advocates when they work together to reach a common goal.