Gender, Labour, Technology

23 February 2017

Photograph by Carsten ten Brink. Title: The women work. Image source

When we speak of women in technology, the image that springs to mind is that of a woman programmer in the Silicon Valley, balancing work and home, putting in long hours, and yet not getting her due. The Distributed Denial of Women strike widens the discourse to include gender non conforming people and other diversities in the work place. As stated by Coraline Ada Ehmke - one of the key figures in the strike - your presence (as a woman, person of colour, gender non conforming, trans) can in itself be a powerful political statement.

But the question remains - is presence enough? Where are we seated at this 'table', how far from positions from where we can make actual change. And as we further delve into looking at gendered labour, we realise it is not absence but invisibilising of labour, and even further that it is often extraction and exploitation.

This edition on gender, labour, technology examines how gendered labour is embedded in the making of digital devices in the hardware industries spread across Asia, how inequities of gender and other dynamics of caste, race, ethnicity continue to play a role in allegedly emancipated corporate spaces across the globe, and the disturbing strands of gendered labour of volunteering and managing even in movements. Rightly so it is pointed out by many who were interviewed that it is not necessary that digital technology or the internet in and of itself plays a role in empowering women and gender non conforming people, but that it can be one of myriad tools in this long struggle.

[EDITORIAL] The problem of value for “women’s work”
Radhika Gajjala
Histories of women’s labor have been written through the erasure of subaltern women and their contributions to the productive workforce. It is this erasure that allows us to view the inclusion of “women” into a modern, global workforce in and of itself as empowering. In this editorial, the author looks at the triad of gender, labour and technology through the prism of 'tech-enabled' careworkers, and raises the question of what it is that is considered 'work' and what separates it from unpaid and often gendered labour.

Ten facts about your computer: Health, hardware and the toll on women
Sonia Randhawa
This article takes a look at where our hardware comes from, the electronics factories situated in primarily Asian countries, and the challenges facing the people, primarily women, who work there, and the issues that impact upon women workers in the electronics industry. Ten facts about your computer that illuminate the gendered nature of the labour that is embedded in our hardware.

Educating, Hiring, and Retaining Women in Technology: A Gendered Enquiry
Radhika Radhakrishnan
Research suggests that women are underrepresented at every level in technology(McKinsey survey, 2016). Why is this the case? And how do we educate, hire, and retain more women in it? In this article, Radhika Radhakrishnan highlights the underlying realities that women face in technology beyond just a numbers game, and offer insight to such questions by interviewing diverse, pioneering women working in various aspects of the field.

Being Dalit, Doing Corporate
Christina Thomas Dhanaraj
Multinational companies often put in place a policy for diversity and inclusiveness at the workplace, but does this guarantee the everyday, actual practice of accepting people from marginalized communities, and especially women from such communities. In this article, Christina Thomas Dhanaraj, examines what it means to be Dalit in corporate India - the continued invisibilising of caste, sexism and gender inequity and the effectiveness (or not) of diversity policies.

A Woman Coder's Journey: Interview with Judith Owigar
Judith Owigar speaks about her journey entering into tech spaces, and also about their work with Akirachix in Kenya helping other women along the same journey marked by trials, exclusions and success. While speaking about the barriers of education in science and technology (STEM), she says that what inspires her work in many forums around women in tech in Africa, is that eventually a woman should have the space to make her own choices.

Feminist autonomous infrastructure in the internet battlefield: From Zombies to Ninjas
The Distributed Denial of Women strike borrows the metaphor of the DDOS (distributed denial of service) attack as a radical and subversive tool by activists, but currently DDOS attacks powered by zombie-bots are part of the anarcho-capitalist economies of the internet. Ganesh in their article unpacks the many levels at which gendered labour is extracted, and while positing feminist autonomous infrastructures as an alternative, points to the flaws and the contradictions in the movement and civil society as well.

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