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 following are grounding
assumptions and background comment developed by the Women's Research
- 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
* 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
* 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.
- A valid analysis of the economy must include an
understanding of the sexual division of labor in the family, household and
* 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
* The type of work women do in
the paid labor force is part of a sexual division of labor.