Women and ICT Training: Inclusion or Segregation in the New Economy?

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Abstract

With the digital revolution narrated as the means for social cohesion in the globally competitive national economy, policy and corporate moves are afoot to increase the inclusion of women into the ICT arena, particularly those who have traditionally remained on the fringes of societal inclusion such as lone women parents. By equipping them with ICT skills, such as network engineering, and utilizing their “soft” relational expertise, greater employ ability and opportunity is seen as the route toward inclusion. Yet a tension emerges between policy and practice, where such women are finding it hard to gain work, for the ICT industry, renown for its long hours culture, is slow to implement government recommendations for greater work flexibility and their soft skills remain unrecognized. This paper positions this tension within a wider labor market background that focuses on part-time work, for a general lack of full-time flexibility means women with care responsibilities have a limited range of employment choice. Part-time employment is frequently reflective of dead-end jobs and a catalog of inequalities, where occupational segregation and discrimination point to the feminization of low-level ICT skills. This gendered relation to the labor market is hidden by the narrative of inclusion through ICT skills acquisition. Furthermore, the relational association reduces women and men to normative gendered identities and roles which will do little to challenge existing stereotypes of technical expertise. The paper concludes that rather than inclusion, the possible result is further gendered inequalities and exclusion.