A message from UCU@GCU President Catriona Mowat:
Catriona is Disability Manager at GCU.
To celebrate International Women’s Day this Thursday 8th March, we asked women members of the UCU @ GCU to tell us what being a trade union member means to them, what they would be celebrating this Thursday, and what their hopes for the future were . We have been overwhelmed by the responses we have received. They are powerful, uplifting, inspirational, empowering and thought provoking. The breadth of issues raised truly reflect the diversity of our membership, and the passion and commitment of our members. The TUC reports that 55% of trade union members in the UK are women. At GCU, almost two thirds of our branch members are women. It should be no surprise that women are disproportionately represented among the rank and file of trade union membership. Trade Unions protect our rights, fight against discrimination in the workplace, and seek to change our workplaces and broader society for the better. Today, we are celebrating the incredible contributions of individual women in present times, and throughout history, and we are feeling very optimistic about what we can achieve through collective action. Happy International Women’s Day! We hope you enjoy reading and sharing these voices as much as we have.
Dr. Angela O’Hagan is a Senior Lecturer in Social and Public Policy in the Department of Social Sciences, Media and Journalism. She is also a researcher in WiSE – the Women in the Scotland’s Economy research group.
It’s the year of the ’inclusion rider’ as exhorted by Oscar-winning Frances McDormand. It’s the year of #Time’s up. #MeToo continues to grow and the Women’s March pushes on. It’s also the year that UCU members are striking for economic justice as their pension entitlements are jeopardised and undermined. Common to all these actions is the persistent undervaluing, under-representation and disregard for women’s dignity and autonomy. UCU colleagues are striking in solidarity across occupations in the university sector, and all are cognisant of the unfair and inappropriate action being taken by their employers against their future economic security. They are also striking in solidarity for the additional disadvantage that Universities UK and individual universities are inflicting upon women. Women’s economic insecurity and undervalued status are already well entrenched in the structural inequalities of gendered pay gaps, institutional practices and behaviours, and sexist attitudes.
These issues unite us across national boundaries too as our striking sisters in Spain demonstrate. Women academics are striking on 8 March as part of the the national women’s strike. Taking action against the undermining of academic freedoms and marketisation of education which we all rail against, women academics are demanding an end to the institutionalised sexism of promotion rounds, research grants and leave, flexible working, and the failure to recognise the fundamental contribution of the care economy to sustaining paid employment.
A Scottish university Principal last week attempted to highlight developments in organisational equality policy as at best concessions to an agenda that’s not shared by university management and at worst as trade offs for pensions rights. The advancement and sustained practice of equality is what we have in common with our sisters in Spain, and on the picket lines across Scotland. The goal of equality, for all, that recognises the different lived experience of women and men of colour, across the age span, with disabilities, and with different economic status is a common goal.
That’s why I am in a union, and that union is UCU. That’s why I celebrate the election of our first woman President, Catriona Mowat as she leads UCU GCU over the coming years. That’s why ‘no pasarán!
Clemmie Hill O’Connor
Clemmie is a researcher on the MRC-ESRC funded CommonHealth project, ‘Developing methods for evidencing social enterprise as a public health intervention, and is the Equalities Officer for UCU@GCU’
I am a trade union member because there are continuing issues of pay, working conditions, pensions and institutionalised and structural inequalities that are best dealt with as a collective, working in solidarity across the sector
This International Women’s Day, I will be celebrating the passing of the Domestic Abuse Bill in Scotland, the fact that more women are feeling able to speak up about abuse and everyday sexism, the introduction of ‘Equally Safe‘ and the work being done to make universities and work places safe for those experiencing abuse, the continued discussion of the gender pay gap and the election of GCU UCU’s first female president
I hope that in the future women’s stories and experiences are taken more seriously, in the workplace, in education, in the media and in popular culture. I hope that we successfully win the fight to close the gender pay gap and to achieve better working conditions. I hope we live in a society that has dealt with the institutionalised and structural inequalities that undervalue and undermine women’s work – both paid and unpaid.
Emily is Senior Lecturer in the Department of Law, Economics, Accountancy and Risk and a Research Associate of Women in Scotland’s Economy (WiSE Research Centre). She is the outgoing Equalities Officer of the UCU@GCU
I am a trade union member because collective representation gives individual members the support they need to fight against the bullying and sexist culture that pervades the HE sector. We won’t stand for it.
This International Women’s Day, I will be celebrating the transformative power of education, especially for women and girls around the world.We are all working incredibly hard to negotiate increasing workloads and shrinking resources but we are still changing lives; empowering individuals and communities and shaping national debates through our teaching and research. Go us!
I hope that in the future we can continue to do this in an environment that values and celebrates all our contributions, is free from gender based bullying and harassment, where all staff have the same rights and access to development, and where ‘mansplaining’ is a relic of the past.
Mel works as part of a team of Disability Advisers, in GCU providing advice, information and facilitating access to services and facilities for disabled students and applicants
It’s important for me to feel protected and safe within my workplace. My identity ticks many of the protected characteristics and I need to feel confident and secure knowing that I will be supported and represented in the workplace should I need it. It feels like a bit of a safety blanket for me. I also want trade unions to be as diverse as possible and for there to be visible representation from minority groups. Trade unions should be accessible to all.
I’m celebrating women becoming empowered, using their voice to evoke real change. With the #metoo and #timesup movements, people are being held accountable for their actions and women are joining forces to speak out and create a movement. I don’t celebrate the fact that this has to happen, but I do celebrate women using their strength to empower themselves and other women by saying ‘no more’. Increased visibility of women within the LGBT community, as well as WOC, in mainstream media, sport (and really any area!) is really important to me, and it’s good to see this representation slowly but surely increasing. To give some context, in 2015/16, only 1.2% of HE staff identified as a gay woman/lesbian, 1.3% identified as bisexual and 0.5% identified as ‘other’ (https://www.ecu.ac.uk/publications/research-insights-feb-2018/ which has a definite impact on my experience as a woman within the LGBT community in the workplace. We have always been there, but now we are owning our identities and it’s great to see.
I hope feminism will become more intersectional and inclusive to everyone. At the moment, we still have a huge problem with transphobia in society, and this filters down into the feminist movement. I want ALL women, including trans women, women of colour, disabled women, and women from varying socio-economic backgrounds to think about feminism and feel included. To me, if it isn’t intersectional it isn’t feminism. I also hope we work towards providing better sex education, that’s inclusive of all identities and challenges views on consent and sexist attitudes from a young age.
Marion is an Open Access and Research Librarian at GCU
I had always been a Trade Union member till I worked for a small company, and that is when I really missed one.
I needed someone who had my back to give me advice and help me with issues of bullying and constructive dismissal. In the end I solved the problem by leaving that job and moving on, but it wasn’t ideal.
When I joined the Queen’s College, one of the first things my boss did was take me to my union rep and urge me to sign up – how’s that for a good attitude?!
I have kept up my membership of various unions through my career, and am glad to say they have always tried their best to stand up for me. It is great to know that there is someone to help you things like the grievance procedure and to check your rights for you when negotiating with HR.
This International Women’s day, I’ll be celebrating all women who speak out for their rights. I actually once had a lecturer who said to me “Is there any point in educating you, you’ll just go and have babies”! (And no, I didn’t slap him round the head!)
We have come a long way, but it is only a step along the road, there are many attitudes to be changed. I would like to see an end to everyday sexism and to the targeting of vulnerable women workers. We seem to be slipping backwards down a slope of zero hour contracts and changing terms and conditions under the guise of “outsourcing” (Don’t forget our catering staff.)
Let’s ALL celebrate International Women’s Day – Remember, it takes a strong man to live with a strong woman!
Marion is a PhD researcher in Social Sciences, Media and Journalism, and is employed on a casual contract at GCU. She is the Postgraduate Rep on the UCU@GCU Committee
I am a trade union member because I believe that: people should feel secure in their work place, have job security, be paid for the job that they do and ALL the hours that they work, I want the university to stop employing people on casual hours contracts, and pensions should be protected. Ideally these would not be topics for debate but they are and the union provides support and solidarity to those when they need it.
On International Women’s day I will be celebrating the recent movements that have opened up a discursive space that allow women to come forward and speak up. Whilst the experiences the speak of are awful and things that no-one should have to endure, they have inspired women and men to collectively condemn the dominant patriarchal systems across all industry sectors that have paid women less, verbally abused them, taken them for granted etc.
I hope that universities stop taking advantage of people trying to start a career in academia by employing them on casual hour contracts (which are really zero hour contracts). I hope that in the future there is equality. I hope that people continue to stand up against bullies and I hope that time is up on patriarchal dominance.
Karen is a Senior Research Fellow in Public Health, and sociologist, in the School of Health & Life Sciences/Institute for Applied Health Research at GCU.
I am a trade union member because as much as individuals can make an enormous difference, collective action and solidarity has the power to bring about significant societal transformation.
This International Women’s Day, I will be celebrating the many, many women from previous generations, as without their strengths, sacrifices and determination, I would not have the life I have nor the opportunities before me. I will celebrate the women around the world today, fighting for justice and equality in all walks of life. I celebrate the little girls, their life opportunities already impacted just for being born female, but I hope their futures are free of abuse and violence. Time is up on misogyny; enough is enough!
I hope that in the future people’s lives and opportunities are not blighted by gender, postcode, skin colour or who one chooses to love. We must strive to enable all people to live the life they have reason to value, as only then will we live in a just society.
Jen is a Postgraduate Researcher at GCU examining Basic Income
I am a trade union member because I strongly believe in the constructive ability of unions to make workplaces safer, more equal and essentially better places to be.
This International Women’s Day I will be celebrating the achievements of women and in particular celebrating the raising of one of Glasgow’s first statues to the power of women and collective campaigning; that of Mary Barbour who championed women’s rights and drove home a clear message that greed and elitism ought not to be tolerated in a fair society.
I hope that in the future, education for its own sake becomes fashionable once more and that corporatism is driven out of our higher education institutions, as through the sharing of ideas, ideals and collaborative values that seek to improve life for everyone, will we see a society in which everyone flourishes.