Women of Wearables tells us that ‘Wearables at Work Next Big Thing’. Much is made of the potential safety dimensions (e.g. panic buttons for staff working by themselves) of such wearables, whilst the control dimension, a version of clocking-in and clocking-out, for example, or ‘mood readers’ that tell whether or not an employee is bored or irritated or looking attentive etc. is downplayed. And whilst the size of the potential market is a source of much rejoicing on these web pages, little attention is paid to the resource implications of such devices, from their material costs, in every sense of that phrase, to their energy drainage to the problem regarding waste disposal that is already much discussed regarding smartphones. Ken Loach’s new film Sorry We Missed You looks at the impact of such technologies on workers, in this instance a woman care worker for the elderly and a male delivery driver, whom are compelled to ‘feed’ a smartphone and a ‘proof of delivery device’ (called a gun by the driver) respectively, to fulfil their work requirements. But neither are automata, and their work conditions are disastrous, not just for them, but for their family lives, and for their clients. Especially in the context of care. Brave new world? I don’t think so.
These words by Jill Blackmore (2017) open a new Finnish-language volume Huiputuksen moraalijärjestys (The moral order of top performativity) that came out this week. The editors Karin Filander, Maija Korhonen and Päivi Siivonen emphasize that this phrase captures the Zeitgeist of the current working life which glorifies top individuals, top teams and top results. Since the top can be reached only by few, the rest become categorized as failures, useless and unfit. The book criticizes the excessive demands directed to individuals and explores the affective implications of the working conditions under which nothing is enough.
The editors consider the current entrepreneurial university as a Mecca for the constantly increasing pressures and demands of working life. The rhetoric of world-class, excellence and cutting-edge has become overpowering and pervasive in academia. This has alluring and seducing features – who wouldn’t want to be excellent and successful. At the same time, it enforces adaptation to externally imposed success criteria and creates a normative ideal that is extremely difficult for anybody to attain.
The harsh university reality has become obvious also in our interviews with Finnish female academics in bio and health technology. The excessive demands have been one of the key reasons why some of our interviewees have left academia. Although they love research work, they are not willing to give their whole life to it.
Moving out is one option to try to escape the massive requirements in academia but then again, the question arises whether it is any better elsewhere. The book chapters tell about gloomy stories of unemployment, burn-out and mental health problems, among other things, outside the research and innovation field too. Therefore, it would be crucial to develop working life in general into a more human and sustainable direction.
Blackmore, Jill 2017. Gender work and entrepreneurial universities: from a gift to a gig economy. Presentation at a research seminar, 31.8.2017, Tampere University.
In the spring a gender mainstreaming and work environment project (WONDER) was internally funded by Uppsala University. The project is called WONDER (WOrk eNvironment aND wEllbeing) and is an organisational development project, closely connected to the work done in Nordwit on women’s careers in technology intense areas. In the project we will work with health promotion and work environment improvement measures for everyone and with particular focus on the group of doctoral students and young researchers at the unit from a gender perspective.
The project is running at the department of information technology, and the division of Vi2. The project team consists of Åsa Cajander from Nordwit and her colleagues Robin Strand (head of division), Ginevra Castellano (the Equal Opportunities Officer at the Department) and PhD. Giulia Perugia.
In October 2019 the project organised a retreat at Krusenbergs Herrgård with the help of an occupational health expert. We discussed and learned about work environment issues in academia during two days. An unusual amount of people signed up for the retreat where the expert Anders Herrman from Previa held seminars and discussions with us. Some of the things that were discussed was work load, work culture and strategies to cope with work overload. There will also be a follow up seminar from Previa and Anders Herrman in November. The team got some homework to do before this follow-up session.
The project will also organise additional seminars at the department about gender mainstreaming and the work environment. One seminar will be on work environment and the use of mail by Magdalena Stadin in December, another will be of gender in academia by Annelie Häyrén from the Centre for Gender Studies in March 2020. We will also organize more seminars later on in the spring 2020.
In the project we will evaluate and assess + improve our work environment from a gender perspective. In this work we focus on gender budgeting. In this work we will first look into allocation of office space from a gender perspective, and Åsa Cajander has started looking into this through reading research papers, and talking to people at the division about hierarchies and office space allocation. Based on this I will do an evaluation of the office spaces at the division, and present this in a short report and at a seminar.
In the spring 2020 this work will be followed by an evaluation of time allocation and resources from a gender perspective.
Many people suffer from stress and we need to improve well-being in academia – especially for women who are more likely to suffer from stress. The WONDER project is an attempt to move things one step in the right direction!