Pat Giles as critical actor within the trade union movement of the 1970s
Faculty of Computing, Health and Science
School of Psychology and Social Science
International feminist scholars of the politics of representation have repeatedly sought to identify the conditions under which women-friendly policy reforms are most likely to be achieved (RNGS, 2006. RNGS Homepage. http://libarts.wsu.edu/polisci/rngs/.). In spite of the ongoing popularity of the notion that women-friendly policy changes occur most readily when a critical mass of women representatives (commonly held to be 30%) is assembled in a legislative forum, evidence suggests a need to re-think the assumed link between numbers of women and the enacting of positive change for women. This article responds in part to the call for research focussing on critical actors and their role in pursuing policy change favourable to women. The focus of the article is on the work of Australian feminist activist Patricia Jessie Giles in the Australian trade union movement from 1974 until her election as a Senator to the Australian Parliament in 1981. The article considers Pat Giles as one of several critical actors within the Australian trade union movement during the 1970s who were strategically working to ensure that unions came to understand the needs of women workers, and who simultaneously were working towards internal reform of the trade union movement itself.