The Process
Grounding assumptions present a basic analysis of a situation and offer a useful place for discussion to start. They are statements that need not be broken down any further; statements that can begin comfortably with "We believe that..". The process of developing them is simple. Women start by responding to the question, "What do we know about the economy, our community and ourselves?" Some sample probes might be: "Let's describe what we do in the home, family and community", "What happens in our town to make money and how does our work relate to that?", "What kind of work is exchanged between people for no money?", "How does money come into and leave our community?" Questions such as "How do we know this?", "What impact does it have?" are also asked throughout the discussion.

When the answers to these sorts of questions are compiled, the women ask themselves, "What are our assumptions about this?" and develop a set of basic statements of belief, sorting through the material of the first discussion to pull together common ideas and develop new understandings. The basic statements they arrive at are their personal grounding assumptions on women and the economy.
    From this point, participants can identify strategies ranging from action research for community economic development strategies, to lobbying or forming discussion groups. One group in a small resource town found through discussion that they were not as anti-industry as they had thought, and a resulting strategy was the formation of a new advocacy relationship between the group on the one hand and the local industry, the government and labor on the other.
    The major benefits of the process are empowerment and grounding. Women find it empowering to actually see and understand their role in the economy and the on-going strategies they develop are grounded on their own stated needs and experience. What needs and experience tell us is that without realistic action on childcare, without appropriate access to training, without paying women a living wage, and without consideration of the depth of work women already do (and its impact on women's potential involvement in the labor force) economic development initiatives - no matter how innovative - will not work for the average Canadian woman.

The Assumptions
The following are grounding assumptions and background comment developed by the Women's Research Centre.

  1. Women's work in the family and household is an integral but invisible part of the already existinging economy.

     * Managing the household involves food budgeting and shopping, planning and cooking nutritious meals, cleaning up, preserving food and possibly planting/maintaining a garden. Women's home maintenance work includes planning and doing daily and seasonal cleaning, overseeing or doing repairs, making sure the home is comfortable for all who live in and visit it. Women also plan, budget and shop for most goods in the home, including clothing, and do the washing, ironing, sewing and mending of clothes.
    * Women's maintenance of health and relationships within the family and household includes supportinging other family/household members in their work and social life, acting as an emotional buffer between other members and their work, community and home, caring for family members when they are ill and preventing illness generality. This emotional support is taken for granted more than any other part of women's work.
    * The responsibility of caring for children includes feeding, clothing, cleaning, transporting, emotionality supporting and keeping children safe at all their developmental stages. Women are usually responsible for locating necessary childcare or baby-sitting so they can participate in the labor force, go to appointments or have an evening out.

  1. A valid analysis of the economy must include an understanding of the sexual division of labor in the family, household and labor force.

    * Women's involvement (entry, exit, re-entry) with the paid labor force is directly affected by the birth and subsequent care, or arranging for the care, of children.
    * The number of hours women are available to work for wages, participate in overtime, training, promotion and relocation are influenced by their family and household responsibilities.
     * The type of work women do in the paid labor force is part of a sexual division of labor.

Back Contents Next