Gender Issues in Natural Resource-Based Industries in Canada: An Analysis and Conceptual Framework

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  • The overall purpose for this paper is to present a composite view of what is known about women's participation in natural resource-based industries in Canada using existing sources. What are women's roles in these industries? What are the issues and options they face in their work environments? These are two of the questions addressed. The approach is one of synthesis to reflect upon women's status in natural resource-based industries: however, attention has been paid to framing issues in a manner applicable to both women and men. The sources we used included a variety of employment surveys, census data and the somewhat limited research-based literature. These sources are uneven with respect to data about women's involvement in various sectors of the industries, geographic representation, the variables selected and the research methodologies used. The lens through which the data were viewed was that of the woman's perspective. Eichler (1988, 54) contends, particularly when the issues being considered are sexist and/or women's contributions are invisible, that female-centred thinking helps to clarify the questions to ask to develop understanding. She sees this gendered perspective as an important stage before being able to work toward a nonsexist approach. A gender-sensitive lens enables us to see how the world is shaped by gendered concepts, practises and institutions. Peterson and Runyan (1993, 1) observe that a lens orders what we look at, enabling us to see some factors in greater detail or more accurately or in better relation to certain other dimensions. Given the interdependence of women and men... an analysis of women's lives and experiences does not simply \"add something\" about women but transforms what we know about men and the activities they undertake. ... the absence or invisibility of women does not suggest gender neutrality but in fact demonstrates the personal, political, systemic, and structural effects of gender differentiation. The latter involves defining different qualities, roles, and activities for men and women and ensuring the reproduction of these discriminating structures. (Peterson & Runyan, 1993, 8) In contrast to our approach, especially in the area of agriculture, other than for overtly commercial operations, there is a tendency for research to take a family enterprise focus. And yet the research shows great ambiguities about the nature of the partnership of the family farm. Cooper (1989, 167) calls the family farm \"one of the most mythologized institution in North America.\" The theoretical and methodological approaches to the study of farming households seem to be based on an assumption that the household is a democratically based moral economy rather than a bargaining unit. These approaches obscure the diversity of farm partnerships and tend to underestimate women's contributions. Indeed the family farm approach to considering gender roles in agriculture has been cited as contributing to women's invisibility (Ghorayshi, 1989; Smith 1988; Reimer, 1983). We recognize the demands and importance of women's participation in both productive work and reproductive tasks associated with the household. However, undue emphasis on the household may neglect other arenas in which women may work as owners or operators in their own right rather than as family helpers. Therefore, our primary focus is the woman herself. This may include the role of spouse or partner in a household based enterprise, but it is not limited to that role nor do we take it as the beginning point.

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    Attribution-NonCommercial-NoDerivatives 3.0 International