ICT Labor

The production of the technological devices and platforms that make digital cultures possible is often portrayed as a progressive, clean industry. In fact, the industry is far from clean, and in environmental or human terms. Electronics industry production is highly toxic at several points along the process (see our section on Computers and the Environment). Moreover, in terms of labor practices, except at the very top of the labor ladder, policies and practices are far from progressive. As with much of modern manufacturing, the Global South does the majority of the most difficult and dangerous production of digital devices and it does so largely in order to exploit cheap labor and avoid labor safety issues. While occasionally one tech corporation is singled out for blame, in point of fact virtually all high tech companies, often through subcontractors from whom they can claim some distance, engage in highly exploitative and dangerous conditions.

Getting a more diverse group of workers in the upper echelons of the Information and Communication Technologies (ICT) industry is one crucial aspect of overcoming the digital divide in both access and representation for non-dominant groups and in challenging dominant labor relations. Yet, despite some model efforts, women and people of color of all genders lag far behind in the statistics on jobs in the US, and are relegated to the most dangerous and onerous jobs at the bottom of the electronics industry work force in the Third World/Global South.

The problem is a global one, embedded in a deeply radicalized and gendered division of labor at work both internally in the US and internationally along lines of the industrially overdeveloped Global North, and the neo-colonially underdeveloped Global South.

For a taste of what conditions can be like, watch the ABC News video about Apple's Foxconn factory.

The resources on this page include both analyses of labor issues, and links to groups that are doing creative work to achieve greater equity.

Statistics on diversity in tech companies as visualized at Information is Beautiful

Selected Books and Articles on Labor Practices in the High Tech Sector

Dyer-Witheford, Nick and Greig S. de Peuter. "E.A. Spouse and the Crisis in Video Game Labor." Canadian Journal of Communication 31.3 (2006): 599-617.

---. Games of Empire: Global Capitalism and Video Games. Minneapolis: U of Minnesota P, 2009.

e. a. spouse. "EA: the Human Story." Live Journal 11/11/04.

Fuchs, Christian. Digital Labor and Karl Marx. New York and London: Routledge, 2014. Comprehensive look at the global ITC workforce under the current regime neo-liberalism.

Fuchs, Christian and Sebastian Sevignani."What Is Digital Labour? What Is Digital Work? What’s their Difference? And Why Do These Questions Matter for Understanding Social Media?" Triple C: Communication, Capitalism and Critique 11.2 (2013).

Maxwell, Richard and Toby Miller. Greening the Media. NY: Oxford UP, 2012.

Mims, Christopher. "Electronics Makers Have Worst Labor Practices of Any Industry, say Report." MIT Technology Review Jan., 9, 2012.

Mosco, Vincent. The Digital Sublime: Myth, Power and Cyberspace. Cambridge, MA: MIT Press, 2004.

Pellow, David and Lisa Park. The Silicon Valley of Dreams: Environmental Injustice, Immigrant Workers, and the High-Tech Global Economy. NY: NYU Press, 2002.

Remmers, Meike. "Poor Working Conditions Persist in Chinese IT Production." Nov. 4, 2013. SOMO - Centre for Research on Multinational Corporations.

Researching Electronics Corporations by Company. from SOMO.

Scholz, Trebor, ed. Digital Labor: The Internet as Playground and Factory. NY: Routledge, 2013. Collection looking at digital labor from multiple perspectives.

Smith, Ted, et al. eds. Challenging the Chip: Labor Rights and Environmental Justice in the Global Electronics Industry. Temple UP, 2006.

Selected Books and Articles on Gender, Race, and the ICT Workforce

Barbercheck, Mary et al. (eds.). Women, Science, and Technology 2nd edition.. New York: Routledge, 2008.

Burger, Carol J. et al., eds. Reconfiguring the Firewall: Recruiting Women to Information Technology across Cultures and Continents. Wellesley, MA: AK Peters, Ltd., 2007.

Burke, Ronald J. and Mary C. Mattis, eds. Women and Minorities in Science, Technology, Engineering and Mathematics: Upping the Numbers. Northampton, MA: Edward Elgar Publishing, 2007.

Bystydzienski, Jill M. and Sharon R. Bird, eds. Removing Barriers: Women in Academic Science, Technology, Engineering, and Mathematics. Bloomington: Indiana Univ. Press, 2006.

Cohoon, J. McGrath and William Aspray, eds. Women and Information Technology: Research on Underrepresentation. Cambridge, MA: MIT Press, 2006.

Elm, Malin Sveningsson and Jenny Sundén, eds. Cyberfeminism in Northern Lights: Digital Media and Gender in a Nordic Context. Newcastle-upon-Tyne, England: Cambridge Scholars Publishing, 2007.

Faulkner, K. et al. Strategies of Inclusion: Gender and the Information Society. Edinburgh, UK: Research Centre for Social Sciences, 2004.

Fox, Mary Frank et al., eds. Women, Gender, and Technology. Champaign, IL: Univ. of Illinois Press, 2006.

Gajjala, Radhika. Cyber Selves: Feminist Ethnographies of South Asian Women. Walnut Creek,
CA: Alta Mira Press, 2004.

Hafkin, Nancy and Sophia Huyer, eds. Cinderella or Cyberella?: Empowering Women in the Knowledge Society. Bloomfield, CT: Kumarian Press, 2006.

Haynes, Deborah J. et al., eds. Gender, Race, and Information Technology. A special issue of the journal Frontiers: A Journal of Women's Studies. Vol. 26, No. 1, 2005.

Hossfeld, Karen. "'Their Logic Against Them': Contradictions in Sex, Race and Class in Silicon Valley." In Nelson et al., Technicolor. Race, Technology and Everyday Life. New York: New York University Press, 2001; 34-63.

Hrabowski, Freeman A. et al. Overcoming the Odds: Raising Academically Successful African American Young Women. New York: Oxford Univ. Press, 2002

Kitetu, Catherine Wawasi. Gender, Science and Technology: Perspectives from Africa. Dakar, Senegal. CODESRIA, 2008.

Lerman, Nina E. et al., eds. Gender and Technology: A Reader. Baltimore, MD: Johns Hopkins University Press, 2003

Lynch, Julianne. ed. Gender and IT: Ongoing Challenges for Computing and Information Technology Education in Australian Secondary Schools. Sydney: Australian Curriculum Studies Association, 2008.

Margolis, J. and. A. Fisher. Unlocking the Clubhouse: Women in Computing. Cambridge, MA: MIT Press.

Margolis, J., Goode, et.al. Stuck in the Shallow End: Education, Race, and Computing. Cambridge: MIT Press, 2008.

Nelson Alonda, et al. (eds) Technicolor: Race, Technology and Everyday Life. New York: New York University Press, 2001.

Newitz, Annalee and Charlie Anders. eds. She's Such a Geek! Women Write about Science, Technology, and Other Nerdy Stuff. Emeryville, CA: Seal Press, 2006.

Ng, Cecilia and Swasti Mitter. eds. Gender and the Digital Economy: Perspectives from the Developing World. London: Sage Publications Pvt., Ltd., 2005.

Pellow, David and Lisa Park. The Silicon Valley of Dreams: Environmental Injustice, Immigrant Workers, and the High-Tech Global Economy. NY: NYU Press, 2002. Best book on the toxic dangers to workers of IT labor in US and globally.

Pitti, Stephen J. The Devil in Silicon Valley: Northern California, Race, and Mexican Americans. Princeton, NJ: Princeton University Press, 2004.

Scott-Dixon, Krista. Doing IT: Women Working in Information Technology. Toronto, CA: Sumach Press, 2004.

Sharma, Usha. Women Empowerment Through Information Technology. New Delhi, India: Authors Press, 2003.

Shih, Johanna. "Circumventing Discrimination: Gender and Ethnic Strategies in Silicon Valley." Gender
& Society
20.2 (2006): 177–206.

Smith, Ted, et al., eds. Challenging the Chip: Labor Rights and Environmental Justice in the Global Electronics Industry.Temple UP, 2006. Excellent collection of essays.

Stewart, Abigail J. et al., eds.. Transforming Science and Engineering: Advancing Academic Women. Ann Arbor, MI: University of Michigan Press, 2007.

Turner, Eva. ed. Women in Computing. Special issue of the Journal of Information, Communication, and Ethics in Society. 3.4 (2005).

Zorn, Isabel et al., eds. Gender Designs IT: Construction and Deconstruction of Information Society Technology. Wiesbaden, Germany: Verlag für Sozialwissenschaften, 2007.

Tech is Racist

Organizations Working on Gender, Race and ICT Labor Issues

  • American Indian Science and Engineering Society
  • Anita Borg Institute for Women and Technology
  • Association for Progressive Computing
  • Association of African American Web Developers
  • Center for Women and Technology
  • Coalition to Diversify Computing
  • Computer Professionals for Social Responsibility
  • CorpWatch
  • Digital Sisters/Sistas: African American Women in ICT
  • Douglass Project for Rutgers Women in Math, Science, and Engineering
  • Geek Girl
  • GenderIT
  • Gender, Science and Technology Gateway
  • International Labor Organization
  • National Association of Minorities in Communication
  • National Center for Women in Technology
  • Silicon Valley Toxics Coalition
  • Society for Advancing Native Americans and Chicanos/Hispanics in Science
  • Triple C: Communications, Capitalism and Critique
  • Webgrrls International
  • WIGSAT: Women, Technology and Society
  • Women and Technology International
  • Women in Computer Science
  • Women Who Tech
  • Women's Net South Africa
  • Women's Networking and Support Program