GSG 21-23 NEC Gender Representation



The National Executive Council decided to conduct a review of the CWU Rules with a view to updating the Rules to ensure we have the most progressive regulation on gender representation for the National Executive Council.

To determine best practice to securing gender representation on the National Executive Council of the Communications Workers’ Union, the review encompassed an analysis of Executive Boards across various Unions, namely SIPTU, Financial Services Union, Mandate, Irish Congress of Trade Unions, CWU UK and UNI Global Union.

This matter was also the subject of discussion at the UNI Europa Women’s Committee meeting at which it was determined that an examination of the representation of women at decision-making levels would be of benefit to all, with a view to developing positive action measures towards gender mainstreaming.

Female membership of the CWU normally stands at between 21% to 25%, which reflects the number of female employees in what is traditionally a male dominated sector. This report was prepared on the premise that the CWU aims to achieve proportional representation of women across both sectors of the NEC to reflect our membership base. Accordingly, positive action rule changes will aim towards appropriate gender representation on the NEC.

Diversity and inclusion boost performance, creativity, problem solving and many other aspects of employment. They allow us to understand better the needs of others, an issue that is crucial to union work. To prove this point, reference is made to a report published by the ILO on how women in leadership are better for business:

It is important that we have a more diverse and equal union, with more women in leadership positions, creating more role models and more possibilities for other women to actively participate in union roles. It also means more support for women to work in tandem with their male colleagues.

Accordingly, within the CWU, it is accepted that there is a need for appropriate representation of women on the union’s decision-making body to reflect our membership base.

Under the existing Rule 5, the National Executive Council will consist of up to a maximum of 32 members – up to a maximum of 16 from the eComms sector and up to a maximum of 16 from the Postal/ Courier sector.

For the eComms Sector, there is one reserved seat for women and in the Postal/Courier there are two reserved seats for women.

Voting operates as follows, in the Postal/Courier sector there is a maximum of two nominees per Branch, with two additional nominees permitted from Branches for the women’s reserved seats. In the eComms sector, there is a maximum of one nominee per Branch, with one additional nominee permitted from Branches for the women’s reserved seat.

Subsection 18 states that: “A member will only be permitted to serve one (1) term on the National Executive Council utilising a Reserved Seat for Women.”

In recent years, the number of seats in the eComms sector was reduced to reflect the lower membership in this area, accordingly the number of reserved seats for women was reduced from two to one. There are currently 12 members on the eComms sector, one of these being the reserved seat for women. There are currently no women on the main panel and the one reserved seat represents 8.3% female representation which is significantly lower than the proportional number of female members in eComms, which stands in general at 17-18%.

In the Postal/Courier sector, we currently have 16 members. Three women are on the main panel, one woman has taken up the reserved seat and the final member has taken up the other reserved seat in an observer capacity. The observer status is on the basis that only one candidate ran for election for the reserved seat at BDC 2022. This led to the Executive deciding to write to Branches seeking a candidate for the other reserved seat and the election would be conducted by ballot by the Postal/Courier Executive members. This has been the situation for the last two conferences, with only one candidate being put forward from this sector for two reserved seats.

The female membership of Postal/Courier sector equates to 25% female, which currently reflects our female membership base. That said, the non-filling of the two reserved seats is a matter that needs to be addressed hence the production of this report.

The research has shown that no other union operates a system of reserve seats for women and for most unions proportional representation applies. Accordingly, the National Executive Council has decided on the following approach:

  1. Remove the reserve seat(s) from both sectors and replace with a system of proportional representation similar to what is in operation in CWU UK, SIPTU and ICTU as follows:
    • Postal/ Courier sector and eComms sectors: ensure a minimum of 20% of these panels are of either gender on both panels, i.e. no less than 20% of female members and no less than 20% of male members.
  1. Remove Subsection 18 which states that: “A member will only be permitted to serve one (1) term on the National Executive Council utilising a Reserved Seat for Women.” Accordingly, there would be no restriction on the number of terms that a female member can serve on the main panel.


  1. Vacancies that arise during the term of the Executive will be filled using the normal procedure however the proportional representation must be maintained.

A rule change on its own is the first step in achieving gender representation, however this is not the only action that needs to be taken to ensure that the union is more gender inclusive. In that regard we are committed to:

  • Allowing for more networking opportunities for women
  • Providing Leadership training at least once a year
  • Keeping the Mentoring Programme going
  • Advertise the role of the Executive in advance of BDC, how it benefits the membership, the requirement of the role and relevant commitment, as well as the training and supports available.

This policy will be monitored and reviewed to reflect any changes in the number of executive seats and proportional gender representation in line with our membership base.

The NEC will bring a proposed wording to the next Biennial Conference to have a rule change based on the above.


Appendix 1

CWU Gender Representation as of March 6th 2023


TOTAL MEMBERS:                  11,772
Total Male                    9,330 79%
Total Female                    2,442 21%
Male                    2,635 84%
Female 518 16%
TOTAL 3153
Male                    6,695 78%
Female                    1,924 22%
TOTAL                    8,619



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