|Programmed Inequality (MIT Press)|
|Monday, 28 May 2018|
In the History of Computing Series, the book by historian and author Marie Hicks has the subtitle "How Britain Discarded Women Technologists and Lost Its Edge in Computing". Hicks explains how Britain lost its early dominance in computing by systematically discriminating against its most qualified workers: women. Her account reveals that in 1944, Britain led the world in electronic computing. By 1974, the British computer industry was all but extinct.
What happened in the intervening thirty years holds lessons for all postindustrial superpowers. As Britain struggled to use technology to retain its global power, the nation's inability to manage its technical labor force hobbled its transition into the information age.
Author: Marie Hicks
Marie Hicks explores the story of labor feminization and gendered technocracy that undercut British efforts to computerize. That failure sprang from the government's systematic neglect of its largest trained technical workforce simply because they were women. Women were a hidden engine of growth in high technology from World War II to the 1960s. As computing experienced a gender flip, becoming male-identified in the 1960s and 1970s, labor problems grew into structural ones and gender discrimination caused the nation's largest computer user—the civil service and sprawling public sector—to make decisions that were disastrous for the British computer industry and the nation as a whole.
Drawing on recently opened government files, personal interviews, and the archives of major British computer companies, Programmed Inequality takes aim at the fiction of technological meritocracy and shows how the disappearance of women from the field had grave macroeconomic consequences for Britain, and why the United States risks repeating those errors in the twenty-first century.
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