The Lost Decade: Ten Years of Retrospect on Gender and ICT

A little more than ten years ago, the famed Geeta Rao Gupta published an article on Foreign Policy as a continuation of her work published just prior in the International Feminist Journal of Politics.  The title of her article? ‘Till Technology Do Us Part.  The article strikes a depressing tone as it angrily demands from global governments why policies that benefit women have yet to be established when it comes to ICT and the work force.

The conclusion of the article is simple:

[Previous reserch concludes] that maximizing the benefits of technology for female workers requires building on women’s “experiential knowledge,” providing women with flexible vocational training that considers nontraditional job opportunities, and ensuring that the state takes greater responsibility for protecting vulnerable workers.

This conclusion comes from an impressive collection of data where “nongovernmental organizations (NGOs), academic researchers, and policymakers from Bangladesh, China, India, Indonesia, Korea, Malaysia, Sri Lanka, and Vietnam [were used] to examine the ‘problems and possibilities’ that technology poses for women workers.”  Interviews on the ground described cases such as this one where “hand loom weavers in India reported feelings of uselessness and despair because their skills were rendered obsolete by technologically skilled workers.”  There lies the rub, and why the previous conclusion was not how the article actually ends.  Instead, the author continues in her conclusion with the following caveat:

Unfortunately, without a concrete political strategy spelling out the how, who, what, and where, such objectives remain unobtainable. A realistic strategy should identify the individuals and institutions that would implement these recommendations, assess the costs and benefits to the state and to employers, and outline the specific steps at the local, national, and international level needed to translate well-intentioned rhetoric into reality.

Ten years later, and those concerete strategies do not appear to have been formulated. (If they have, dear reader, please post some recomended points of research in the comment section bellow.)  Further, the author implores countries to examine the health risks associated with high-tech work: not just repetitve stress injuries like carpal tunnel but psychological damages and negative externalities like loom weavers lament above.  While the promise of incorporating technology into the working lives of women may make for a great political soundbite, even ten years out there has yet to be a credible response to this criticism.

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