Office systems development and gender: Implications for Computer-Supported Co-operative Work
Kluwer Academic Publishers, Dordrecht, The Netherlands
We present new UK research (1987-90) in the area of gender and office information systems design. Our paper will contribute to the CSCW debate in two areas. Methodology, where we use our case-study experiences to reflect upon the traditional computing approaches to office systems design. Secondly, participatory design, through our active involvement in the work-place we consider a gender perspective on obstacles and opportunities for involvement in the design process. We open by briefly discussing the range of current UK office systems design methods, contrasting these with more innovative approaches developed in Europe. Secondly we focus upon clerical work as a major area of women's employment concentrating on the relationship between technical and organisational aspects of systems development. In section three we present the outcome of our own case-study research. We worked in collaboration with staff in a large pUblic library, where management envisaged the acquisition of a new integrated system to link previously discrete services. Our aim was to develop techniques and strategies through which women staff could intervene in the evaluation of systems and suppliers. In conclusion, we identify a number of factors within pUblic sector office work, which affect opportunities for a proactive role for clerical workers and their trade unions, in the design and implementation of office information systems. The authors wish to acknowledge the research contribution made by Ian Franklin to this paper. This research was funded by the Joint Committee of the UK Economic & Social Research Council, and Science & Engineering Research Council from 1984-1990. Current grantholders are Eileen Green and Den Pain.