Q&A on 'Women in EPSU Survey'

(May 2014)

What is the survey?

In 2009 EPSU, with the support of our Swedish affiliate Vision (then SKTF), carried out a survey of women’s representation in affiliates’ decision-making bodies and other structures. This compared data from 2008 and 2000 to see to what extent the position of women had changed over that period. We wanted to repeat this exercise and compare to update the survey to see whether there has been any improvement in the position of women since 2009.

Why is it needed?

Traditionally, women tend to be under represented in the decision making structures of Trade Unions, even in sectors where the workforce and union membership is predominantly female. Our aim is to see what improvements there have been and also collect information on what our affiliates might be doing to encourage better female representation.
What were the results?
54 unions in 31 countries replied to the survey, covering a total of 10,648,547 workers. 61% of all the membership of the surveyed affiliates are women. The proportions range widely between 80%-90% in the Health and Social Care sector, for some unions, to only 10-20% in Public Utilities.
So the survey asked for a breakdown by sector?
Exactly. This means we can see that women are still underrepresented in traditionally male-dominated sectors, for example in public utilities.

So what about female representation in the decision making bodies of the unions?

The good news that on the whole women’s representation has improved. The average percentage women congress delegates was 52.9% this time round, compared with 49.6% in 2009. We see a similar rise in the percentage of women in the highest decision making bodies: 53.8% compared with 51% in 2009.

So things are improving…?

Definitely. But there is still some way to go. When we compare the percentage of women as union members with the percentage of women at congress or in the highest decision making bodies we see that there is still a gap. The averages that we’ve mentioned here also mask a very nuanced picture with greater improvement in some areas than in others. But on the whole a lot of progress has been made and we are moving very much in the right direction.

You say it’s a ‘nuanced picture’. Can people look at the figures themselves to get a better understanding of the wider picture?

Of course! The results are available at (link) and are definitely worth taking a look at.