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OU Spotlights Women's Workplace Struggles

Photo of a woman with a megaphone, by Karolina Grabowska on Pexels.

The stories of women’s often hidden struggles in the workplace across 120 years are being given fresh prominence in a new online social history resource launched by The Open University in Scotland today.

The Women and Workplace Struggles collection casts a new light on struggles women have faced in the past as well as highlighting new issues that women face in the workplace today. From the contribution women made to the 1911 Singer sewing machines factory in Clydebank to the prejudices faced by 21st century migrant NHS nurses, the resource features on the OU’s vast ‘open content portfolio’ OpenLearn which reaches over 36 million people worldwide.

Developed in partnership with Scottish Union Learning, it includes individual stories of women including British Airways cabin crew trade unionist Gail Sheridan, former British Leyland shop steward Linda Fisher, social justice campaigner Lynn Sheridan, and academic Suzi Collins who writes about her own experiences of sexual harassment while working in hospitality in the 1980s and 90s.

Susan Stewart, Director of The Open University in Scotland said:

The collection is particularly powerful because each article comes from either the lived experience of the author, a particular work or political interest, or a personal role within a strike or dispute."

“This great new free resource in OpenLearn helps shine a light on the often-hidden struggles women have faced in the workplace. It has been made richer through our collaboration with Scottish Union Learning by unlocking stories, experiences and perspectives from trade union activists across Scotland. 

“The collection is particularly powerful because each article comes from either the lived experience of the author, a particular work or political interest, or a personal role within a strike or dispute. These are voices that should be heard.”

A number of workplace issues are addressed such as challenging gender stereotypes, pay equality, migration and fairness at work.

Khadija Patel and Suzi Collins. Photo by Mick McGurk. Suzi Collins, OU Associate Lecturer in Social Science and author (pictured right), said:

“Far reaching social, economic, cultural and political changes over the last 120 years contribute to the discrimination that women have faced, and this continues right up to the present day when austerity polices and the Covid pandemic have impacted more on women. 

“The Women and Workplace Struggles collection provides vital social context as we continue to tackle discrimination. There is still today a significant gender pay gap in Scotland with women often less well-paid, in temporary, part-time and or casualised roles.”

The development of Women and Workplace Struggles took place over two years, and it has been created as a living archive with a call-out issued today for public submissions, historical pieces, contemporary stories, photographs and other visual material to add to the collection.

Khadija Patel, Partnerships Manager, OU in Scotland (pictured left), said:

“This is a heartfelt collection of trade union activities highlighting that it is through storytelling that we share with each other and with future generations how we challenged inequities within the workplace.

"We continue to build on this project and are particularly keen to hear from those who have been involved in struggles around issues such as pay and fairness at work, defending jobs as well as campaigns, disputes and strikes to defend or improve workplace conditions. We are interested to hear from across all sectors of the economy and from every locality in Scotland.”

Anyone interested in contributing to this project, should contact ouscotland-women-struggles@open.ac.uk

17 November 2022

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Photo of a woman with a megaphone, by Karolina Grabowska on Pexels.

OU Spotlights Women's Workplace Struggles

The stories of women’s often hidden struggles in the workplace across 120 years are being given fresh prominence in an online resource launched by the OU in Scotland.

17th November 2022
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