A senior trade union official has hit out at her own organization over the limited number of women in leadership positions, saying it was just one example of women being held back by the proverbial glass ceiling.
Assistant General Secretary of the Barbados Workers’ Union (BWU) Wilma Clement yesterday argued that while the union was headed by a woman – General Secretary Toni Moore – and while women constituted the majority of its membership, most of its leaders were male.
“About three years ago our committee looked at the number [of men] who were attending our annual delegates conference and it was like 42 per cent, yet when it was time to vote the women voted unanimously for the men,” Clement said, holding females partially responsible for maintaining the status quo.
“Not even a quarter of the composition of the executive council were women, and we have not seen eight women on the executive council for the Barbados Workers’ Union for years. Women think that is natural because we believe that men are supposed to lead and women are supposed to support them,” she told the media on the sidelines of a leadership seminar hosted by the BWU at its Solidarity House headquarters this morning ahead of International Women’s Day on Thursday.
Clement, the gender affairs coordinator at the BWU, also complained about the scheduled time for union meetings, saying it was not convenient for the women, many of whom have “nurturing responsibilities” at home.
“We have to look at the fact that most BWU meetings usually start at 5p.m. Now when you start at that time and you have those caring and nurturing responsibilities, are you going to stay for another two hours at the union, or are you going to go home and take care of your family? So do we need to talk to the unions about when we have meetings, and if the late start is unavoidable could there be childcare facilities?” she questioned.
The union official said the country had made strides towards shattering the glass ceiling over the past two decades, but argued there was still a long way to go.
She said the public service was ahead of the private sector in this regard, pointing to the number of women who head ministries, compared to those in executive positions in the private sector.
She also complained about the number of men who attended Tuesday’s event, suggesting it was all part of the problem in a male dominated business environment.
“When you look in the public sector most the permanent secretaries are women, but this is only the public sector where there has been a serious effort to change the culture. The private sector is a different story. Today we should have had at least 30 per cent men, but their employers told them that because it was International Women’s Day they couldn’t go. The same gentlemen would get permission to come here on Thursday evenings for meetings but can’t get permission to come to a women’s day activity,” Clement complained.