Document Type


Degree Name

Doctor of Social Work (DSW)


Social Work


Lyle S. Hallman Faculty of Social Work

First Advisor

Hubert Campfens

Advisor Role

Thesis Supervisor


The well-being of economically marginalized women and their families is increasingly threatened in the current context of precarious employment and diminishing state intervention. In advanced welfare states, global competition and neo-liberal economic thinking have prompted the dismantling of social programs. In other countries, political and economic crises have led to the uncontested application of neo-liberal economic policies. These transformations create severe economic hardship as well as social exclusion and political disempowerment. Women's employment initiatives have shown some ability to address economic needs at the individual family level However, given a theoretical framework that emphasizes the importance of addressing underlying socio-political factors, important questions remained. This international, comparative study examines women's employment initiatives as a means of addressing poverty – discovering the particular practices that make programs effective, exploring the potential within the initiatives for social mobilization to challenge broader issues, and comparing the features across different settings and contexts. A multiple, holistic case study design was used, working within the constructivist paradigm and taking a blended standpoint and orientational qualitative approach, to look at a government and a non-governmental program in each of Canada and Chile. Field research methods included observation, participant-observation, interviews, focus groups, and examination of program materials. Tentative findings were checked with participants prior to providing a formative evaluation to each program. Evidence was found of effective practices in each of the programs. A comparative analysis revealed similarities in the government and non-government settings and substantial contrasts between the Canadian and Chilean contexts. Interesting themes emerged in relation to individual, family, and collective outcomes. Participants benefited from having instructors or mentors with similar characteristics and backgrounds to their own. Couple relationships were affected by the women's participation in the employment initiatives — negatively in Canada and positively in Chile. Collective outcomes and social mobilization activities were more evident in the group enterprises fostered through the Chilean initiatives than in Canada's more individualistic context; and the importance of the intentionality of social mobilization within the program objectives was clear. Recommendations are provided regarding effective program practices, increased social mobilization, the essential role of the state, and further research.

Convocation Year


Convocation Season