The ILO’s gender. The place of women in representative bodies, the gendered hierarchy of jobs, and gendered social-justice policies

Social justice for all?
By Françoise Thébaud


Raising the issue of the ‘gender’ of the International Labour Office (ILO) opens a unique window into its functioning and history. This paper investigates the respective places of men and women in all bodies, the differentiated construction of the categories of male and female workers, as well as the gendered dimension of international labour law which intends to establish social justice. It emphasises the first two decades of the ILO, but gives details on long-term trends. In so doing, it highlights the ILO’s long-standing male ‘gender’ and assesses the efforts made in the past few decades to implement more egalitarian policies and practices: the 2000s notably appear decisive. This paper also nuances the institutional memory of a radical post-war shift, which supposedly moved from a policy of specific protection for women workers to a policy of professional equality.
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