WFP Balance

Practical solutions which allow mothers and all parents to balance their family and professional responsibilities with their involvement in their cooperative

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Work - Family - Participation Balance

Being involved in a cooperative requires free time that many women do not have. Between professional obligations and the family responsibilities which so often fall to mothers, many women in cooperatives are unable to fully participate in the collective management of their living spaces.

Those who are single parents, those in young families, and caregivers are even less able to participate in collective management, even though many people in these categories live in housing cooperatives.

The issue of work/family/participation balance, which is rarely considered by housing cooperatives, if at all, is considered by women in cooperatives to be one of the largest roadblocks to their full participation.

Failing to consider the reality of family responsibilities can lead to some or all of the following consequences:

  • exhaustion for mothers raising families, who have to add the majority of domestic responsibilities to their responsibilities at the cooperative;
  • women with young children pulling away from participation, especially from positions with an important degree of responsibility, such as being an administrator;
  • tensions in cooperatives, especially in intergenerational cooperatives where retired people have more availability than parents of young children.

Definition : Work - Family - Participation balance

The ability for people and families to balance their family life with their work life, social involvement and life in a cooperative.

For cooperatives, recognizing and considering this reality means finding a variety of ways to encourage members to get involved.

The Statistics Speak for Themselves

* This data is from the Enquête sur le profil socioéconomique des membres des coopératives d'habitation du Québec 2017, published in 2019 and covering the Montreal region. This data is more recent than the data shared in previous project publications and, as such, may differ slightly from what is written elsewhere,

60 %
60 % of housing cooperative members are women;.
13 %
of households consist of a couple with children.
39 %
of households consist of families with at least one child.
16 %
of households are single-parent families.
87 %
of single-parent families are led by women.
« For full-time workers, it’s a very heavy commitment. A choice has to be made between participating in the cooperative or family time. »
— A female resident
« The time when I was the least involved was when I was a single mother. »
— A female resident
« I often meet women who are suffering from burnout. They give a great deal of their time at the expense of their personal lives. »
— - A female support worker

Some ideas from female residents

  • Introduce a childcare service, reimburse childcare fees, or exempt those who care for children from certain jobs, for instance, during work bees or cleanups;
  • Decide on dates for meetings far enough in advance so that it is easier to balance work, family and participation in the cooperative;
  • Choose meeting days and times which are more convenient for families with young children and for female heads of households

Tacking Action

A Guide to Work/Family/Participation Balance

This guide, developed with the support of members from the Bois Ellen housing cooperative in Laval, is designed for cooperatives and their members who want to change the way they support families’ participation and encourage intergenerational relationships.

In the guide, you will find a compilation of best practices proposed by the residents who were interviewed as part of the project. There is also a list of resources and useful tools:

  • a template for starting a family committee in your cooperative;
  • a questionnaire to ask members about issues related to work/family balance;
  • a reimbursement policy proposition for childcare fees.

Guidelines from the project coordination committee

For cooperatives

  • Put tools and policies in place which encourage work/family balance, such as cooperative-run childcare services.

For federations

  • Adapt and improve the offer and content of member training, taking issues related to work/family/participation balance into account;
  • Adopt practices which take into account issues which are related to work/family/participation balance, such as a policy encouraging work/family balance.

For support groups (technical resource groups and housing committees)

  • Adapt and improve the offer and content of member training, taking issues related to work/family/participation balance into account;
  • Encourage cooperatives to equip themselves in matters of work/family/participation balance from the time they are founded.

Speak out!

Do you have questions or would you like to share the reality in your co-op? If you want to share your success stories or find solutions to your challenges on the road to equality and inclusion, write to us!