Is the knowledge economy gendered? : call centres as a case study
This thesis investigates the gendering of the knowledge economy and argues that women are being excluded from key areas within it, through their employment in call centres. Access to knowledge and participation in the knowledge economy, primarily through the use of information technologies, are the focus for a critical debate around social inclusion and exclusion. Gender inequalities are rarely considered, with a few notable exceptions. Women's relationship with knowledge is considered and developed through the analysis of four knowledge types. This demonstrates that access to and involvement in the knowledge economy is gendered. The relationship between skills and gender is analysed, confirming the perpetuation of patriarchal perceptions held by male senior managers about why women are employed in call centres. Management style in this relatively new sector is investigated to establish whether or not it has been re-gendered. Most knowledge economy writers posit the decline in management hierarchies and the `end of career'. This research reviews the implications of this for women's careers in management. The thesis critically considers women's involvement in the call centre design process, drawing upon existing empirical research on the social shaping of technology and the theoretical debates of actor network theory. This confirms that the design process is gendered and hierarchical, due to the exclusion of women. The investigation of women's relationship with the knowledge economy is researched through analysis of knowledge types, skills, management styles, career progression and the design of technology and the working environment in call centres.