This document has been made available in electronic format by the International Co-operative Alliance (ICA) 


December 1998


Women and the Development of the Social Economy. The Social Economy and the Economic System - a Comparison between Sweden, Italy, and Russia
Ahlander-Sätre,Ann-Marie. Sweden

The present paper analyses how the development of the social economy can contribute to increase equity between sexes by increasing employment, democracy, and welfare and how this is related to the functioning of the economic system in northern EU, southern EU, and Russia respectively. If focuses especially on how the cooperative might be seen as a model for change in two different ways. Firstly, it provides a model for changing society. It provides a suitable framework for organizing work in accordance with the changing demands of society. Secondly, the cooperative provides a model for changing the organization of work at the individual workplace. The co-opertive might in particular provide special opportunities for women with respect to flexibility and participation.

Gender Equality in Employment and Management of Japanese Consumer Co-ops For Restructuring Japanese Management System
Chikamoto, Satoko. Consumers Co-operative Institute, Japan

Consumer co-ops have built the similar employment system as other enterprises. The practice in employment and management of co-ops shows general inequality between man and women who are working in Japanese employment system. 1. Changing Profile of Employed Female Workers in Co-ops The number of women at work in consumer co-ops has been increasing, and the ratio of women to the entire workers reached 18.3% (6,411 including managers, 1996). In addition, 75,714 part-timers are working in consumer co-ops. At least 90% of this number are considered as female workers, and this means that female workers are carrying out the bulk of operational works of consumer co-ops. 2. Good environment for female workers, but few opportunities for management. By the estimation of full-time workers, the support system for birth and child-rearing has been mostly established for the both genders. But inequality is existing in recruit and management system, so only 7.7% seats of executive board are occupied by women.Many hurdles for Gender Equality in Japanese Workplace. Women are still responsible for 90.0% of housework, family care, nursing, child-rearing, etc., with only 10% of such labor being carried by men. (This is shown by 1991 Survey on Time Use and Leisure Activities by the Management and Coordination Agency.) The general situation of employment is very different between women and men, as shown in employment rate according to age. The line is still M-shaped in the case of Japanese women, while the high employment rate, even by international standards, for Men is shown in all ages. The ratio of women in managerial positions is slowly increasing: in 1995, the ratio of women of general managers, section managers and senior staff respectively accounted for 1.3%, 2.8%, and 7.3%. The average salary, exclusive of overtime pay, of female workers was by 37.5% less than that paid to male workers in 1995. "Position" and "years of service" contribute to widening the wage gap between men and women, as shown in Basic Survey on Wage Structures in 1995, published by the Ministry of Labor. More and more women are engaged in work on a temporary basis, including part-time contracts. The ratio of women engaged in temporary work reached 38.6%. 4. For Achieving Gender Equality in the Workplace of Co-ops JCCU worked out the guideline of action plans for gender equality, in 1995, but a few of co-ops have made their own action plans under the adverse economic environment in Japan. It is important to build social systems that promote gender equality while reconstructing workplace of co-ops.

Women in Co-operatives: An Overview of Issues
Dr. Lou Hammond Ketilson, Associate Professor of Management and Marketing
Centre for the Study of Co-operatives, and College of Commerce
University of Saskatchewan, Saskatoon SK S7N 5B8, Canada
Tel (306)966-4798, Fax (306)966-5408 Email

Women support co-operatives worldwide through their labour, their production activities, their consumption activities, and increasingly, their governance activities. Co-operatives are advocated and chosen by women as a preferred route to economic, social and political empowerment. But have co-operatives around the world risen to the challenge? Is the representation of women in both elected and employed areas of decision making reflective of the needs and aspirations of women who comprise, in most cases, 51 per cent of the population? Are women gaining the influence they require to make changes in important areas of their lives?

Findings from a survey of major co-operatives in Canada revealed three female presidents and six female chief executive officers. Women hold 16% of the board positions of the three major co-operative organizations, and the 35 CCA member organizations. By sector, women hold 3% of agriculture, 11% of retail/wholesale, 12% of finance/insurance, 48% of service, 22% of assoc/federation co-ops and credit union board positions. A higher percentage of women were found to manage smaller co-operatives and credit unions.

If we contrast these statistics to those of the North American private sector, where women hold fewer than 5% of positions on boards and 5% of senior executive positions, co-operative organizations seem to have a better track record. Women, however, often choose co-operative organizations because they expect better experiences, and unfortunately, may not find them. Although touting fundamental principles of equitable access and influence for all members, co-operatives often treat half of the membership as if invisible. Women have been successful in getting a "foot in the door" of co-operatives. But having "one foot in the door" does not necessarily enable you to stand on equal footing. Equality of access is one criterion by which to judge equity in co-operatives. Equality of impact is more important.

For the remainder of my presentation I will summarize what we have learned through our research which focused on uncovering hindrances and helps to moving women into decision making positions in co-operatives, both at the elected official and managerial level.

Problems of Women Entrepreneurship in Poland. Polish Business Women in Co-ops
Chyra-Rolicz, Zofia. Cooperative Research Institute, Poland

The social and professional women's activity has had very long tradition in Poland from the end of XIX century. The co-operative movement had been opened for women very early, but the power of tradition was very strong, closing for women more important positions in co-ops created mainly by men.

In spite that in Poland we had women co-operators: ideologists and good organizators (like Henryka Habicht-Starzewska, writer Maria Dabrowska, Maria Orsetti, Wanda Papiewska), the real emancipation in co-operative movement lasted long time, with the visible results in the Second Republic (1918-1939). In 1935 women established themselves the Ligue of Women Co-operators in Poland, promoted this movement and feminine activity in it, especially in consumer and housing co-ops. The Ligue acted in Warsaw and in bigger towns, associated almost 3000 members in countrywide. In rural areas co-operatives ideas were supported by peasants' political movement as the way of civilization's progress. Rural women's activity in consumer, commercial, dairy and artisans co-ops was promoted by the housewife's' circles different political orientations. The well developing co-operative activity among women and made by women broke down the second world war.

Women's Economy Men's Economy - Segregation for ever?
Jarva, Vuokko., DrSocSc,. Institute for Cooperative Studies, University of Helsinki, Finland

Dutch researcher Geert Hofstede found, when researching the workers of IBM in 50 countries, variation in the amount of feminine and masculine characteristics and their relationship from country to country. The economic principles of more masculine and more feminine societies were different. The masculine society is a society of competition while the feminine society is a society of cooperation.

Hofstede is not the only researcher who has tried to distinguish the feminine and the masculine characteristics of societies. Patricia Thompson from New York has developed a theory which she calls the feminist theory of home economics. She considers the home to be even today the center of the society and the men's public sphere to be periphery. The situation in the societies today is thus upside down: the male peripheric sphere (the hermean) dominates and exploits the female central sphere (the hestian).

A co-operative is by definition a dual formation consisting of the economic enterprise side and the cooperative social side. In this sense a co-operative should theoretically be an economic unit in which the female and the male sides of the economy should be balanced and in harmony. This apparently is not the state of the art.

The history of the co-operative movement shows, that from the fairly female beginning of the protective, nurturing solidarity of the beginning co-operatives have been integrated more and more deeply in the male monetistic sphere of competition. The same development is visible in other institutions of social economy as well: it seems that because these organisations/enterprises have had to fight for their place in the monetistic competitive sphere of societies, the integration could not be avoided.

The situation today in Western industrialized countries is very interesting in this sense: in many countries there has been a boom of new generation co-operatives as local initiatives of those concerned. These new co-operatives show remarkable female characteristics, and the social aspect is experienced as the focal by many members who have otherwise been in danger to lose their livelihood or remain unemployed.

The labour market experiences at the moment a vast transformation, which is characterized a long lasting high unemployment. There are signs, that in between the private and the public labour markets there is now emerging a third labour market, which is characterized by need to guarantee a minimum income for everybody, need to offer work places for people whos capabilities no longer fit the free high productivity labour markets etc.

The future will show if there emerges a new labour market of cooperation instead of the market of competition. On this market cooperative enterprises (be they private or social economy) there can be a challenge for completely new type of co-operatives, co-operatives in which the female social side is more balanced with the male monetistic side and not only the slave of the male sphere.

This does not mean, that the hard monetistic side of enterprising should be pushed totally aside, but finding of a new balance, a balance where the women's economy no longer would be the slave of the male one but its partner.

Eliminating the Barriers: Women in Leadership Positions Within the Co-operative Movement
Jeffries, Marian. Co-op Atlantic, Canada

Barriers to women achieving management positions not only prevents women from reaching their potential but also results in barriers to a co-operative's ability to have the most capable and competent staff in positions that would allow them to most effectively contribute to the success of the organization. Those barriers must be identified and explored for the co-operative to reach its potential as an organization. Eliminating the barriers that women face in achieving leadership positions within the organization and the co-operative movement can only be achieved through awareness and acknowledgement.

It is my intention to examine Co-op Atlantic in relation to our succession planning, selection process and management today. I will explore how this relates to issues facing women in management and achieving management positions within Co-op Atlantic; beliefs about women's roles and culturally ascribed characteristics preventing women from co-op management positions, and how change can occur.

I will attempt to address the questions: what are the difficulties for women in becoming leaders, is there evidence of change and increasing participation by women, have programs and policy such as the Women in Co-ops Task Force, and Employment Equity made a difference, what can improve the numbers and quality (attracting the "best and the brightest") of young women entering management positions in Co-op Atlantic, what is the importance of role models, can young women be inspired to reach their potential by interacting with women who are successful within their organizations through networking, and does co-operative education and training make a difference to women's success?

State Policy and the Role of Women in Society and Consumer Cooperation
Kisseleva, Galina., & Prouttskova, Natalia. Russian Federation, Moscow

The principle of equality between men and women is contained in the basic law of the Russian Federation - its Constitution (Article 19). The same principle was included into the Law of the Russian Federation on Consumer Cooperation (Consumer Societies and their unions) in the Russian Federation which says that one of the main aims of any consumer society is "the widest involvement of women in the governing and control bodies."

Women played, and are playing an important role in the cooperative movement and in the life of the country. According to statistics, 70% of cooperators are women. At the same time, there are 54.5% women vice-chairpersons of boards of district societies, but only three women are chairpersons of boards of regional, territorial and republican unions.

However, the participation of women in the cooperative movement depends not only on their wish but on the opportunities the state provides them as well.

Women's Empowerment, Poverty Alleviation and Sustainability: Supporting Co-operative Strategies in a West African Micro-Finance Programme
Mayoux, Linda. The Open University, U.K

Micro-finance programmes are currently being promoted by multilateral and bilateral donor agencies as a major tool for women‚s empowerment and poverty alleviation. However current policy in many donor agencies is dominated by concerns with programme financial sustainability which entails cutting costs of administration including support services, focusing on techniques to ensure repayment in conditions of micro-finance delivery and group formation and rapid expansion to benefit from economies of scale.

All these policies have been shown to have potentially adverse implications for the explicit development aims of micro-finance in terms of both women's empowerment and poverty alleviation in many contexts.

There are also potential tensions between the different policies for financial sustainability themselves and between financial and organisational\institutional sustainability. In particular the shift from viewing micro-finance as a useful tool for cementing wider forms of co-operation between women around production to increase incomes and mobilzation around gender issues to viewing groups as a mechanism for ensuring loan repayment is misplaced. At the same time, the forms of co-operative development which accompanied credit provision in the past were often inflexible, overly bureaucratic and imposed top-down programmes which failed to contribute significantly to either increasing incomes or empowerment.

This paper discusses issues raised by recent work by the author to develop a sustainable strategy for women‚s empowerment with Cameroon Gatsby Trust-a micro-finance programme based on traditional women's rotating savings and credit organisations. The first section of the paper gives a background to the programme and existing evidence of contributions and limitations of the micro-finance provision as a tool for empowerment of programme participants and poverty alleviation. The second section discusses the diversity of forms which women‚s spontaneous co-operation in production and marketing has taken and the ways in which collective action have succeeded in addressing issues such as domestic violence. The final section discusses some of the issues involved in building on these grassroots initiatives to develop a financially and organisationally sustainable programme which has a significant contribution to empowerment and poverty alleviation.

The Role of Women Entrepreneurs in the Irish Credit Union Movement
McCarthy, Olive. Centre for Co-operative Studies, University College Cork, Ireland

Women represent well in excess of 50% of the total credit union membership in Ireland and according to recent statistics this figure has been growing considerably, particularly since 1990. However, to date, little research, at even a very basic level, has been carried out on the substantial role played by women in the Irish credit union movement.

This paper begins by briefly tracing the key role of women in founding the Irish credit union movement. It focuses mainly on an examination of recent innovative job creation strategies adopted by a small number of Irish credit unions and traces the pioneering role played by women in developing these strategies.

Case studies of two credit unions are presented: Tallow Credit Union Ltd. in the southern region of Ireland and Blessington Credit Union Ltd. in the east. Both credit unions have established enterprise centres in their communities that house fledgling businesses in incubation units. Much of the impetus for these centres and the drive to make them succeed have come from credit union managers and directors who are women.

To conclude, the paper identifies the great need for further research on the role of women in the Irish credit union movement.

"Breaking through the Glass Ceiling: Women in Management"
Nippierd, Anne-Brit. ILO, Geneva

This presentation will provide a review of the findings presented in the ILO report, "Breaking through the Glass Ceiling: Women in Management", as well as the project experiences of the ILO Cooperative Branch with regard to gender issues.

Feminism, Co-operation, and Co-operatives
Smith, Rochelle. Centre for the Study of Co-operatives, Canada

Feminist theory and co-operative literature are examined to determine how they address women and co-operative development, on the assumption that feminist researchers would be interested in the co-operative form of organizational structure as a tool for development because of the values and principles to which co-operatives adhere. Thus far, both bodies of literature seem to have relatively little to say directly on this subject. Where women are discussed in the co-operative literature, this is done in empirical and historical studies of their role in co-operatives and their contributions to the co-operative movement. The needs and wants of women which can or should be met by co-operatives can be inferred from these discussions. The feminist literature shows that women's experiences in and with co-operatives have been varied, and that cultural, historical, and traditional contexts, as well as economic and political factors, are important in determining whether the co-operative form of organization is appropriate and its success on implementation. It does not, however, seem to provide a theoretical framework for achieving feminist goals through co-operative development. There is considerable potential to develop such a framework. Points of connection between feminist and co-operative theory can be found in commonalities in values, goals and principles, and in feminism and co-operatives as social movements. More research is required to address which of the different streams of feminist theory would lend themselves to development of a framework and to identify other points of connection.