Technology Threatens Women’s Future.

September 11, 2014

In some ways, social media has become the great equalizer. On Facebook, there a post from this blog will be just above the latest profound idea that Julian Lennon (or at least ‘his people’) has decided with which to inspire us all. I can interact with women and men from all walks of life and from all over the world and they can with me. Social media is global villaging.

When I wrote the following article, I am sure some of us psychics and others were predicting some of the amazing ups that would happen with new technology but in general we has NOT A CLUE as to how it would encompass our lives.

For many of us, new technology has greatly assisted in our self-employed careers in many ways including providing us with expense free ways to promote ourselves.

Yet what is negative about computer technology still rings very true in this piece: many jobs have been lost due to this technology. A few years ago when I was returning from a trip to Denmark, a person who would have normally processed my airline ticket and sent my luggage on its way instead showed me how to do this myself. In every bank, there are machines nowadays where we can help ourselves to money or paying our bills instead of interacting with a living teller. Secretaries have almost gone the way of the dodo bird.

I remember, in the early 1980s, a critic of new technology predicted that would would end up “sweeping up around the computers”. Just recently I encountered a woman in her 20s who declared her ideal husband would be one who would be fine with her staying at home and not getting a job. The following article addresses this phenomena and I invite you to count the number of other things predicted at the Women and the Changing technology conference that have now come about, spawning high work loss:

June 1983
Technology Threatens Women’s Future
by Tanya Lester

More women will be pressured to leave the workforce because of jobs lost to technology than was after World War II. Making this claim to 100 people attending The Effective Women and the Changing Technology conference is Dr. Margaret Benston, a computing science and women’s studies professor at Simon Fraser University.

Benston, the keynote speaker at the University of Winnipeg organized conference, cited mass unemployment as a negative aspect of computer technology if it is “used out of our (women’s) control.”

Most of these jobs will go first in clerical and other ‘job ghetto’ areas which are mostly staffed by women, Benston said. She cited an insurance company, in Vancouver, where the staff was reduced from 60 to 25 because the computer is programmed to bill customers. A data center in her home city, Benston said, is already being operated on total part-time workers as a result of the new technology.

“This is a technology that is far beyond being like any other machine,” she said. The jobs lost will not be replaced, as was first thought, Benston pointed out. There are already computers which can be programmed to write other computer programs, for instance.

She referred to the leaked federal government document which predicts two million unemployed over the next 10 years due to increased computer technology. Economists already accept an eight per cent unemployment rate as total employment.

“For younger women, in particular, if you can’t get a job the temptation to believe that you have chosen to remain in the home will be there,” Benston explained.

Stressing that the new technology is not necessarily a “liberating” experience, Benston pointed out office automation will not change the hierarchy in the workplace.

“Mechanization has served to reinforce the (low) position of women both in the labour force and in the home,” she said.

She explained computer technology will undermine these women’s control or power in their workplaces as it will further specialize their work and isolate them from other workers.

In the conference workshop, Sari Tudiver, a project officer for Women and Development with the Manitoba Council for International Co-operation, indicated that women in middle management will also experience job loss as computers move into supervisory areas.

For other women workers, computer monitoring already means “someone listening in but you don’t know when” or a computer watching the number of key strokes performed, Tudiver said.

Tudiver also pointed our factory workers, who are mostly immigrant women or others in Third World countries, are already having their jobs making computer chips displaced by computers. A robot can replace 50,000 workers, Tudiver said.

Smaller business will be “beaten out” by the big companies with continuing computer technology, Tudiver said. If people shop via home computers, there will be no need for son many women working at shops downtown if no one is going downtown to work. Voice messaging could also eliminate the work of travel agents.

Tudiver said more computer technology does not always mean massive layoffs, but new people may not be hired when others retire, quit or are promoted or transferred. She said a recent Business Week article predicted the computer technology jobs created will be less than half of the two million jobs lost. “People are talking about a minimum of 20 per cent job loss.”

Both women urged women not to regard technology as being beyond their control and urged women to get rid of the idea that management will, or should inevitably make all the decisions for the computer technology entering the workplace. Worker-management committees could be useful in this decision making.

“Think of this whole thing as a sort of lego set that we can put together in any way we want to,” Benston said. If women “put together” computer technology as it should operate, then the result will be a valuable tool for information gathering, reducing boring taks, increasing leisure time and improving other aspects of living.

To read the first posts in this blog, please go to
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Confessions of a Tea Leaf Reader” by Tanya Lester can be purchased from the author or go to the title and author name to read the first few pages and buy it on


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