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Women encounter technology: Changing Patterns of Employment in the Third World

Table of contents

Edited by
Swasti Mitter and Sheila Rowbotham

Routledge London and New York

The United Nations University

INTEC - Institute for New Technologies

Published in association with the UNU Press

First published 1995 by Routledge 11 New Fetter Lane, London EC4P 4EE

Simultaneously published in the USA and Canada by Routledge 29 West 35th Street, New York, NY 10001


Typeset in Times by LaserScript, Mitcham, Surrey

Printed and bound in Great Britain by

Mackays of Chatham PLC, Kent

All rights reserved. No part of this book may be reprinted or reproduced or utilized in any form or by any electronic, mechanical, or other means, now known or hereafter invented, including photocopying and recording, or in any information storage and retrieval system, without permission in writing from the publishers.

British Library Cataloguing in Publication Data

A catalogue record for this book is available from the British Library

Library of Congress Cataloging in Publication Data

Women encounter technology: changing patterns of employment in the third world/edited by Swasti Mitter and Sheila Rowbotham. p. cm. - (UNU/INTECH)

Includes bibliographical references.

ISBN 0-415-12687-8

1. Women - Employment - Effect of technological innovations on - Developing countries. 2. Information technology - Developing countries. I. Mitter, Swasti, 1939- II. Rowbotham, Sheila. III. Series: UNU/INTECH studies in new technology and development.

HD6223.W654 1995
331.4'09172'4 - dc20 95-7345

ISSN 1359-7922
ISBN 0-415-12687-8

This collection of essays explores the effects of information technology on women's employment and the nature of women's work in the third world. Contributors discuss the challenges faced by women, along with their responses and organizing strategies, as they adjust to new technologies in less affluent communities. Also outlined are the roles that family, ideology, state policies and trade union structures can play in distributing information technology-related employment among women and men. Particular chapters highlight differences in the interests and needs of different groups of women, challenging the concept of a monolithic, specifically feminine vision of technology and science. The book provides a critique of postmodernism and ecofeminism and suggests ways in which modern technologies could promote gender equality in the developing world.

In looking at the impact of information technology on the working lives of women in the third world, this volume begins to redress the imbalance in the literature, which has so far tended to focus mainly on the experiences of first world countries. Presenting fresh research from leading academics around the world, Women Encounter Technology lays a vital foundation for further debate and research in this important area.

Swasti Mitter is the Deputy Director of the United Nations University Institute for New Technologies (UNU/INTECH), Maastricht, the Netherlands, and holds the Chair of Gender and Technology Studies at the University of Brighton, UK. Sheila Rowbotham has written extensively on women in history and the contemporary position of women. She is a Research Fellow in the Department of Sociology, University of Manchester and an Honorary Fellow in Women's Studies at the University of North London.

UNU/INTECH Studies in New Technology and Development

Series editors: Charles Cooper and Swasti Mitter

The books in this series reflect the research initiatives at the United Nations University Institute for New Technologies (UNU/INTECH) based in Maastricht, the Netherlands. This institute is primarily a research centre within the UN system, and evaluates the social, political and economic environment in which new technologies are adopted and adapted in the developing world. The books in the series explore the role that technology policies can play in bridging the economic gaps between nations, as well as between groups within nations. The authors and contributors are leading scholars in the field of technology and development; their work focuses on:

• the social and economic implications of new technologies;
• processes of diffusion of such technologies to the developing world;
• the impact of such technologies on income, employment and environment;
• the political dynamics of technology transfer.

The series is a pioneering attempt at placing technology policies at the heart of national and international strategies for development. This is likely to prove crucial in the globalized market, for the competitiveness and sustainable growth of poorer nations.

1 Women Encounter Technology

Changing Patterns of Employment in the Third World

Edited by Swasti Mitter and Sheila Rowbotham

2 In Pursuit of Science and Technology in Sub-Saharan Africa

J.L Enos

3 Politics of Technology in Latin America

Edited by Maria InÍs Bastos and Charles M. Cooper

4 Exporting Africa

Technology, Trade and Industrialization in Sub-Saharan Africa

Edited by Samuel M. Wangwe

To Will, Rana, Pamina and Partha, with love.




1. Beyond the politics of difference

Who are the women of the third world?
Accounting for women's position in information technology
It and the world of work: Manufacturing and services sectors
Disembodied technology: Software and data entry work
Postmodernism: A shift from collective to individual
Ecofeminism and the politics of identity in the developing world

2. Information technology and working women's demands

The changing requirements in skills
Mismatch between demand and supply of cognitive skills: Implications for women
Computer technology and the small scale sector
Women in new-tech service industries
Changing location of work and the new international division of labour
Health hazards of new technology
At the margin of new technology: Groups and countries
Transcending the politics of gender

3. Feminist approaches to technology

Reframing the question
The impact of technology

4. Conflicting demands of new technology and household work

The context
The restructuring of the textiles industry: Technology and new organizational models
Technology-induced job losses
Technical change and labour use
Vocational training and retraining patterns for textiles: Implications for women
The work environment in textiles
Textile workers' households3
Women workers' perceptions and voices

5. Changes in textiles

Scope and methodology
Technological and organizational developments
Empirical evidence from country case studies
The experience of Japan and the Asian NIEs
Emerging issues

6. Information technology and women's employment in manufacturing in Eastern Europe

Technological reconstruction
Profiles of selected sectors
Extent of technological changes
An assessment of Slovene experience

7. Restructuring and retraining

Field work
Review of the literature
New managerial strategies
The garment industry in transition
The workforce
Implications for social policy

8. Computerization and women's employment in India's banking sector

Research methods
The banking industry, history and technological changes
Impact of computerization on the workforce
Women's employment in banking
The quality of women's work
Women's needs and aspirations with regard to employment and training
Women employees organizing

9. Information technology, gender and employment

Education and training
TELMAL: Gender and office employment
Computerization in TELMAL

10. Women in software programming

Software as a technology and its production process
The software and computer services sector
An analysis of patterns of women's employment in software activities

11. Something old, something new, something borrowed . . . the electronics industry in Calcutta

The consumer electronics sector
Electronics components production
The software industry

12. Women and information technology in Sub-Saharan Africa

Research method
Current status of information technology in Sub-Saharan Africa
Overall status of women in Africa
Women and information technology

13. Gender perspectives on health and safety in information processing

International trends in information processing employment
Reconstructing women as 'cheap' labour: New technology employment or the same old story?
Health hazards of work with computers and keyboards: The experience from Australia and Europe
The relationship between RSI and technology in the workplace
LDC experience
Learning from international experience

14. Using information technology as a mobilizing force

Historical background
Information technology and TAMWA
Technology and the media
Conclusion: TAMWA and information technology

15. The fading of the collective dream?

Appendix - Yorkshire and Humberside regional socialist feminist conference, 3 November, 1979, 'Women and new technology'