Promoting young women members participation in the union NLGBT+ Committee

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2023 National Women's Conference
10 October 2022
Carried as Amended

Conference, UNISON has more than 1.3 million members and activists of which more than 70% are women. This means that there are over 9 hundred thousand women members scattered across the twelve regions and over 1000 branches. We know we have around 85 thousand young members, so if we use the same percentage of 70% for women this means that we have around 60 thousand young women in UNISON.

At the National Young Members’ Forum (NYMF)’s first conference in 2021, there were multiple motions calling on UNISON to do more to support and encourage young members into other avenues of activism within UNISON when they “age out” of the NYMF after the age of 27.

The NYMF submitted a motion to the 2021 National Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual and Transgender plus (LGBT+) Conference calling on the National LGBT+ Committee to work with the Forum to develop a strategy to increase the numbers of young LGBT+ members participating in the LGBT+ group.

In 2022, the national LGBT+ committee launched a specific campaign aimed at creating an inclusive space for young LGBT+ members on a national level and increasing their participation within the LGBT+ group. It has established a national young LGBT+ network, set up a ‘buddying’ scheme and is developing a mentoring programme. The national network, launched in July, already had over 60 members by October, of whom around 70% are women.

Conference notes that a survey of UNISON young members in November 2020 found that 61.6% of young Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual and Transgender plus (LGBT+) members said they “don’t often take part in UNISON activities, or never do”. Young disabled members, LGBT+ members, women members and Black members were also more likely to be anxious about taking part in UNISON activities for the first time. The national LGBT+ committee’s campaign will assist in addressing these issues.

Conference we know that a percentage of young members will have multiple identities that span our self-organising spaces. In order to include young members and encourage greater participation in our union we need to be working together across the self-organised groups (SOGS).

Conference also notes that 70% of members are women and to ensure we have more women activists and to engage women who are low paid workers we must remove all barriers and the biggest barrier is money. UNISON therefore need to ensure that all activists get some allocated allowances, and all other expenses must be paid upfront for anyone entering an activity for the union. This includes access to childcare, expenses incurred for hybrid meetings and expenses to access appropriate resources. UNISON will benefit and so will the women members. We as a union cannot place additional financial burdens on women and their families. We as a union must practice what we preach by ensuring we remove all barriers to women’s participation in our union. This is fundamental to the development of our women members.

If we can bring more young members into the women’s and other SOGs, we can encourage and support them to continue their activism journey in UNISON. This can only be good for membership and activist development.

Conference calls on the National Women’s Committee to:

1. Consider setting up a network for young women members.

2. Encourage young LGBT+ women members to participate in the national young LGBT+ members’ network.

3. Encourage regional women’s groups to circulate information about the young LGBT+ young members network widely within their region.

4. Work with the NYMF to develop a strategy to increase the numbers of young women members participating in the women’s SOG.

5. Engage with branch and regional women SOGs to identify barriers for young women members in getting more active in UNISON, and to highlight positive measures and success stories in addressing these barriers.

6. Work with the other SOGs, young members’ forum and other appropriate parts of the union to explore alternative ways of meeting, to increase the participation of young women members in our union.

7. Explore the possibility of up-front funding, including for childcare, for union activities.

8. Encourage regional and branch groups to hold joint events with regional young members’ forums wherever possible.