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TECHNOLOGICAL WORK AND WOMEN'S PROSPECTS IN THE KNOWLEDGE ECONOMY: an agenda for research

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This article sets out the conceptual and analytical framework underlying a 3-year long, 8-country research project which will examine the dynamics of women's employment in sectors critical to the so-called 'Information Society'. The project is fundamentally concerned with the gender dynamics of employment in the 'Information Society' or 'Knowledge Economy', and with whether they signal potentially greater gender equity than we currently have in contemporary capitalist society. Specifically, the project's central objective is to examine the prospects for women workers to develop new forms of expertise and skill which promote their career and personal development potential. It will focus on women's work and employment in two growing service sectors, retailing and retail financial services, in the context of leading edge innovations in technology and work organization. This article outlines the thinking behind the research project, in particular the major conceptual frameworks and the research questions which they have generated. It discusses the concepts of the 'Information Society' and the 'Knowledge Economy', and questions their relevance for female employees in routine jobs, raising the historical issue of women's exclusion from knowledge and skill. It considers the importance of the two sectors under study, retailing and retailing financial services, both for notions of the Information Society and for their role as important employers of women. It reviews recent organizational, technological and employment innovations in these sectorsparticularly in the Anglo-Saxon economies. It then raises questions about how far these dynamics might be present in other European economies, and what their implications are for women's ability to develop significant bodies of expertise and career prospects. The project is in its early stages, and this article is planned as the first in a series of papers dealing with the work as it progresses.
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Keywords: CAREER PROSPECTS; EXPERTISE DEVELOPMENT; INFORMATION SOCIETY; KNOWLEDGE ECONOMY; TECHOLOGICAL CHANGE; WOMEN'S EMPLOYMENT

Document Type: Research Article

Publication date: June 1, 1999

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