Labour Studies Index

Updated: 2022-05-16

Restructuring in the forest sector and the re-shaping of women's work identities

Document type Article
Author Mills, Suzanne E.
Journal The Canadian Geographer/Le Géographe canadien
Volume 56
Date 2012
ISSN 1541-0064
Pages 39-57


This article explores how women forest workers’ perceptions of restructuring are related to their work identities. Drawing on semi‐structured interviews with 29 women working in subsidiaries of a multinational forest company in northern Saskatchewan, I describe how women workers selectively drew on traditional mill worker and flexible worker identities to legitimize and delegitimize restructuring. Women's understandings of themselves as workers were shaped by their paradoxical relationships to standard forest processing work. Some women with previous experience working in low‐waged service industries adopted worker subjectivities that legitimized restructuring and valued flexibility, individual empowerment, and mobility. Other women delegitimized restructuring, referencing traditional characterizations of forest work that valued community stability, collective resistance, and security. Many women, however, neither consistently legitimized nor delegitimized restructuring throughout their interviews. This last group's ambiguous portrayal of work and restructuring demonstrates the identity dilemmas faced by new entrants to declining industrial sectors. Restructuring interrupted women's narratives of having found a “good job” in forestry and prompted the renegotiation of their understandings of mill work. This article contributes to our understanding of restructuring in resource industries by drawing attention to how worker identities, gender, and industrial change are interrelated.