Gender, Technology and Development 12 (2), 2008: 185–207SAGE Publications Los Angeles/London/New Delhi/SingaporeDOI: 10.1177/097185240801200202Gender Relations in IT Companies: An Indian ExperienceDEEPTHI SHANKERWith the emergence of the new economy, the working environment in several sectors in the developing nations has changed greatly. These changes anticipate a departure from conventional labor methods and practices towards a new organizational structure. Are these changes characterized by gender neutrality within and outside the workplace? Or do the new workplaces reproduce the latent hierarchical social structure of the domestic sphere? This article attempts to examine the emerging ‘new identity’ of Indian women in IT companies. Analysis of data on organizational structure and management practices reveals the possibility of an alternative vision of gender relations in IT industries. This study tries to understand the extent to which the employment of women in these new industries alters social relations within the work place and outside.IntroductionInformation Technology (IT) is currently the heartbeat of the ‘knowledge-based economy’ in developing countries like India. The industry is a relatively young one and one of the most influential technological sec-tors affecting economic growth in developing countries. In India, the IT industry is an important source of employment and increasingly, for women in particular. Women now comprise about 21 percent of the man-power in the industry, a significant number in a technical sector in India (NASSCOM 2003). This article examines the employment of women in these new economic sectors and its impact on their domestic lives and Deepthi Shanker, Department of Humanities and Social Sciences, Indian Institute of Technology, North Guwahati, Guwahati 781039, Assam, India. Email: [email protected]gmail.com
186Deepthi ShankerGender, Technology and Development 12(2), 2008: 185–207social development. Unlike employment in older manufacturing sectors which have been traditionally dominated by male workers, knowledge-based sectors have facilitated a work atmosphere that can be described as ‘gender neutral’1(Rothboeck et al. 2001). Heeks (1996) contrasts the IT industry with other Indian industries which are considered to be inward looking, protected, working within an environment of all pervasive gov-ernment controls and using obsolete technology. The IT companies are considered to be less bureaucratic, with an emphasis on open manage-ment structures, transparency and people development (Lichtensteiger 2003). There is a widespread belief that the growth of this industry will provide an opportunity and platform for women in developing countries to be at par with their peers in developed countries, as it facilitates access to both technology and knowledge (Antonelli 1991; Perez and Soete 1988).