Three ETFO Programs Devoted to Women’s Leadership Development (Equity and Women's Services)

Equity and Women's Services Staff

ETFO is committed  to working toward a more just and equitable society, and has a particular commitment to supporting  women’s participation and leadership in the union. This is constitutionally mandated; ETFO’s constitution  guarantees positions for women on  the Executive (five of 14 positions), and that programs for women will be provided with funding (6 percent of ETFO’s annual budget) allocated for this purpose. ETFO’s women’s programs offer direct services to women members through courses, workshops, awards, and  publications. Funding is also available for partnerships with provincial and local organizations and to support  groups that advance the status of women and women’s issues in society.

While ETFO offers a wide variety of programs for its women mem­bers (see the Fall 2011 issue of Voicefor a complete listing), the three programs outlined below are distinctive in that they are multi-session, providing an opportunity for women members  to learn together over the  course of  a  year.  Members  complete  these  programs  with  new knowledge and skills. The relationships developed over the course of a year with other participants and presenters also provide them with a supportive network as they move forward.

The Reflections on Practice Institute (ROP) is a face-to-face and online community  of women teacher action research­ ers and facilitators, and is now in its eighth year. Each year, 30 women ETFO members  have the opportunity to learn about reflective inquiry, action research, professional activism and leadership, and to expand their research skills. The institute has three sessions: a four-day training session in the  summer;  a  two-day training  session in the  fall; and another two-day training session in the spring. Participants attend  the three sessions, engage in online chats, conduct an action research project, and prepare and share a report of their findings. ROP  has an  interactive online  space where teams of critical  thinkers  work  with  facilitators  to  produce  their action research studies. These studies are then written, published, and presented on the website for new participants to use as models.

Participants in Reflections  on Practice Institute speak of the transformational  aspect of the program on their practice and their new self-identification as action researchers. Many are surprised  to discover that their work has unanticipated benefits and that these benefits continue after the research itself has ended: lasting changes in classroom practice, a stronger professional voice and increased confidence, and a greater leadership role in their schools and locals. For more information, contact Anne Rodrigue:

While women continue to be underrepresented in proportion to the membership in IITFO leadership position s, the representation of women from designated groups (Aboriginal, people with disabilities, lesbian/ bisexual/transgender and/or racialized) is even lower. Leaders for Tomorrow (L4T) is an intensive, year-long leadership development program for ETFO women members who self-identify as belonging to any of these groups. Participants engage in a variety of workshops and experiences related to leadership roles with­ in ETFO and in  the broader community, over the course of four sessions throughout the school year. The course is designed to enhance leadership skills in an inclusive, anti­ racist/anti-oppression framework. Participants in L4T explore issues of identity and privilege as women from designated groups, and develop inclusive leadership styles within an anti-racist/anti-oppression framework that acknowledges and respects differences.

Skills development components include an exploration of presentation  styles, public speaking, resume writing and interview preparation. Participants are encouraged to access and participate in leadership opportunities both within ETFO and in outside organizations, and to create and implement a three-year leadership plan. Leaders for Tomorrow is in its eighth year of operation and has engaged between 20 and 25 members each year. Many “graduates” of L4T now serve in elected positions on ETFO provincial and local executives and committees.

For more information, contact Kalpana Makan,

Visions is a new program in 2011-2012, designed to provide women members in their first five years of IITFO member­ship with the knowledge and motivation to engage more deeply in ETFO, the broader labour movement, and opportunities  for activism. Participants meet on three weekends during the school year, and involve themselves in local union activities between sessions. This first year, 15 women members from nine different locals are participating in Visions Nine participants are occasional teachers. ETFO leaders from the local and provincial levels share their personal journeys and experiences of union leader­ ship, as do members who exercise union leadership while working In the classroom,and ETFO staff members. Partici­pants note the wealth of opportunities for involvement, the diverse paths to leadership, and the dedication and pride shown by all these women leaders. The structures and procedures of ETFO, including how Annual Meeting works and how the budget is constructed, are demystified.
In sessions  focusing  on activism, participants attend labour and community events (this year, the Ontario Federation of Labour International  Women’s Day breakfast), and meet activists from other unions and community groups.

Communications skills are also a focus, so workshops on effective presentations, rules of order, and chairing a meet­ ing are part of the Visions  program.  Finally, participants write and deliver a short speech, receiving feedback from peers and staff. For more information, contact  Kelly Hayes,



stock photo of two teachers talking in front of blackboard with a chalkboard effect applied to it

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