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To summarize, since the software crisis of the 1970s the industry has gone through far-reaching technical, economic and organizational changes. Work organization has evolved from the Tayloristic approach of the 1970s to a rather more flexible management style in the 1980s. However these changes have not been able to counter the continuing desynchronization of progress in hardware and software. The occupational structures in the industry remain fluid. The sexual division of labour in computing jobs does not seem to have crystallized, although women do tend to be clustered at the base of the hierarchic pyramid. Although they face difficulties in building their career paths, there seems to be room for upward mobility into more skilled occupations and development work. On the other hand, even in firms studied, which emphasize job stability, a trend towards diversifying work relations can already be foreseen. The growth in the outsourcing of less skilled activities, which are being turned into casual work, is likely to seriously jeopardize this window of career advancement for women.

With regard to software development work, at least in the short term, women may continue to have only a minor share of total employment. There are indications of gender polarization of the work, with men tending to be clustered closer to the machinery, where technical expertise associated with mainframes has been assigned a high social prestige. Small processor platforms (e.g. microcomputers, workstations) have so far had lower organizational prestige. These, and activities involving close interaction with users, seem to offer more conducive environments for women. Since the epoch of the powerful centralized mainframes is passing, and software is moving further from the machinery towards the modelling of problem-solving in close contact with users, women may well become core agents in the technical and social changes necessary for the further diffusion of information technologies. Whether this will have a significant effect on the overall profile of women's employment in developing countries will depend also on factors affecting the viability of indigenous software activities and, increasingly, deploying an internationally competitive software and computer services sector.


Field work methodology

This appendix briefly describes the methodology followed in the empirical investigation of the employment opportunities for women in software development work.

Software is a complex subject in both technological and economic terms, and an analysis of software-related occupations is even more difficult. In Brazil, the scarcity of data is a critical issue. No aggregate statistics about the computer services and software sector are available, and software-related occupations are not even recorded in the official statistics. Moreover, these occupations tend to be spread throughout the economy.

Because of lack of generalized data, and limitations in time and resources to undertake an extensive survey, it was decided to carry out case studies in large Brazilian user companies. Three large public firms granted access to their employment data and gave permission for primary data gathering through qualitative interviews with women working as software development staff. All information was to be kept strictly confidential.

Table 10.5 Basic features of the women interviewed


Job Title

Year of admission

Education degree

SC Application analyst D


Economics, M.Sc Computer Science.
VM Application analyst D


Business Administration
IS Application analyst D


Business Administration
AM Application analyst B


Business Administration
ML Application analyst B


Diploma Computer Science
TC Application analyst A


Diploma Computer Science
MA Application analyst D


Business Administration
AP Computer programmer C


AC EDP analyst III


Mathematics, M. Sc Computer Science.
EC EDP analyst III


Physics, M. Sc. Production Engineer
CL EDP analyst III


Telecommunications Engineer
VG EDP analyst II


Business Administration
AL EDP analyst II


Electric Engineer
KT EDP analyst I


Diploma Computer Science Business Administration
EL EDP documenter


Computer Science
DE Computer programmer


Diploma Computer Science
LU EDP analyst



Note: EDP (electronic data processing) covers a broad range of job categories.

Seventeen women, all working in software-related activities, were inter viewed using open-ended questionnaire. Each interview lasted two to three hours. They were asked to approach the following subjects:

• To discuss their education and career history, at the technical and managerial levels.

• To express their opinions about segregation at work.

• To relate their difficulties and opportunities in relation to job mobility, internal and external to these companies.

• To discuss the relation between raising a family and following a professional career.

Some basic characteristics of the women interviewed are presented in Table 10.5. It is important to remark that ten of these women have been raising children, and that eight of them have had managerial experiences.


1 For analyses of the software evolution which focus on technological and economic forces see, for instance, Valdez, 1988, who offers a detailed historical approach, and Gaio, 1990, working within a neo-Schumpeterian theoretical framework.

2 OECD, 1984, Annex 2, reproduces a series of these 'stylised' estimates of the reversal of hardware/software cost ratios. These estimates were very popular from the late 1970s to the early 1980s.

3 For an in-depth analysis of the evolution of electronics components see, for instance, Dosi, 1984.

4 The labour process literature tends to claim that, once the gendering of work has been established, it becomes a persistent pattern which is quiescently accepted as a 'natural' sexual division of labour (e.g. Davies, 1979; Milkman, 1987).

5 The available analyses of women's employment in computing occupations tend to focus on data entry work, where women have always predominated. Very little attention has been given to gender patterns in software development jobs' There is some evidence that women have had only a minor portion of these jobs, and some scattered comments in the existing literature.

6 In India, according to Mitter and Pearson, 1992: p. 23, 'There is no overt discrimination in the field of software programming. There is a general consensus among the management that women stand a better chance of receiving a position of seniority in this area than in other fields of science and technology.' In the USA, Johnson, 1990, remarked that a recent survey of 100 corporate human resource directors highlighted systems analysts, managers and programmer analysts as the most promising jobs for women in computing.

7 Although it was not possible to get aggregate data on the question, and course titles are not standardized, in 1989-1991 the proportion of computer science and mathematics graduate degrees awarded to women ranged from 40 to 50 per cent in three respected Brazilian universities.

8 Kraft, 1979, hypothesised that, whilst women pioneered programming as a profession, they were then systematically excluded until its job content had been substantially deskilled to resemble clerical tasks. The vast majority of labour process analyses until the late 1980s and early 1990s concentrated on software development for mainframes. In this field, at least, the validity of Kraft's hypothesis is at least debatable. Firstly, even if we admit that there has been some fragmentation and deskilling, software development remains a science-based and design-intensive activity, with much lower degrees of formalization than industrial production systems. Secondly, although women's participation in this activity remains minor, it is an important source of employment and offers a viable 'window' of opportunities for women to get access to the 'soft' side of technological competence.

9 This section draws heavily on Gaio, 1992.

10 For examples of this quantitative approach, see Katz, 1987, IDC-C&L, 1987 and OECD, 1989.

11 Although the software industry remains fragmented, there is a tendency for revenues to concentrate in a small number of firms, mainly due to a significant level of acquisitions and the remarkable growth rates shown by some cross-industry packages for microcomputers (Katz, 1987). Recently, in the USA, above-average growth rates (about 4 per cent per year) can also be observed in emerging segments such as educational and entertainment packages (the so-called 'edutainment') for the home personal computer market.

12 With regard to Indian software exports, 1987 and 1989 figures and 1993 world market estimates are derived from Schware, 1992, pp. 148, 143, and the 1993 estimates are from Gargan, 1993, p. I . For detailed comparative analyses of the Indian and Brazilian experiences in software see, for instance, Mitter and Pearson, 1992 and Schware, 1992.

13 For studies of the evolution of the Brazilian informatics industry see, for example, Tapia, 1990, Evans, Frischtak and Tigre, 1991, Meyer-Stammer, 1992 and Schmitz and Cassiolato, 1992.

14 The import control scheme established in 1975 was restricted to transactions which involved remittance of payments, so that it had little impact on the intrafirm software transfers between local subsidiaries of MNCs and their parent companies. This was in fact the main channel of imports. In 1986, 74.5 per cent of the products registered in the Registry of Computer Programs were imported and traded by MNCs, while 24.9 per cent were locally developed products. Of the local products, 71.7 per cent were applications solutions.

15 For more details about the local firms exporting software, see Ponde, 1993.

16 For a detailed analysis of firm ALPHA, see Vasquez, 1993. The firm is linked to a federal Government institution, which is responsible for a significant part of the social services provided by the State. ALPHA provides computer services at the national level. In 1992, besides its headquarters in Rio, it had 22 regional data processing centres located in the main state capitals of Brazil. Historically, these regional centres have had very little autonomy, performing only the basic tasks of receiving the original documents from local users and the first phase of data entry.

In 1988, ALPHA started a process of decentralizing its operational capacity, despite considerable resistance from its main office because of the loss of institutional power. In 1992, one of its main positive outcomes was the decentralization of technical support, creating a more conducive environment for closer interaction with local users (e.g. training, hardware installation and maintenance and local software development). Nevertheless, the company still has a largely centralized structure inherited from the 'epoch' of mainframes. The vast majority of their computing and development resources are still located in Rio, including three of its five UNISYS mainframes. In addition, the firm has around 2,000 general-purpose micros. Its data entry is based on about 840 micros. Although it is still processing in a batch mode, ALPHA has a comprehensive telecommunications infrastructure.

17 For a thorough study of the evolution of software in BETA, with an emphasis on the adoption of process innovations, see Duarte Pinto, 1993. The firm has 35 EDP centres spread around Brazil. Its processing capacity consists of 39 mainframes (26 IBM and 13 DEC), 60 superminis and 331 workstations. It has a significant telecommunications infrastructure, including 16 satellite circuits.

18 Software development is usually carried out by teams, in the following, somewhat simplified, phases: analysis of the problem being modelled for computerization, including user needs and constraints, as well as economic and technical feasibility studies; the specification of the system requirements; the design of the system and its components; implementation and testing; and maintenance. This work also involves the preparation of supporting documents such as user's manuals, installation instructions, and procedures for operational activities.


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