In that case, the women began taking control by starting to name their work situation in their own terms. They moved from there to articulating how it might be different, and from there to action to make it different. From taking charge of rearranging their chairs so they could see and talk to each other, and bringing in noise-absorbing carpets, they began moving on how work should be evaluated and measured. Instead of work standards based on computer keystrokes, they argued for standards defined in terms of the concrete data-processing jobs to be done. They succeeded, too. Efficiency went up 10 per cent, absenteeism dropped 23 per cent and staff turnover dropped to zero.
Quite apart from the form and content, there is the strength of the book's voice: its personal, present-tense egalitarian and irreverent woman's voice, particularly in the interview sections. Jan Mears' round-the-kitchen-table style comes through well in her interview. In another, with an accounts clerk in a forestry company the following passage is revealing: "Now it just pops out of the computer you press a button and it's there. And also, the various analysis of accounts aging of accounts Well, now it's just there, in the computer, so that's where the actual savings come in."
You can hear the inner doubts bumping up against the official party line. Uttering them, and sharing them with co-workers to cultivate a common ground of understanding and a collective other perspective on technology is the first step in taking control of it.
Postscript: If you're ordering a copy of Taking Control of our Future, you might also be interested in Playing with our Health: Hazards in the Automated Office, written by the same women. In the same accessible format, it presents the most up-to-date research on the health hazards associated with VDT use (including research results finding a causal link between birth defects and the radiation given off by VTD terminals). It suggests a range of actions women can take through health and safety committees and other union structures, through ad hoc committees and by conducting research. It out-lines protection women can demand under the Canada Labour Code and the Workers' Compensation Act. Its analysis of women's work as inherently stressful (lack of control and autonomy, subordinate subservient status) is particularly well put.
Reviewer, Heather Menzies; is the
DOCTOR, LAWYER, INDIAN CHIEF
Studio D, National Film Board, 30 minutes, 1986 Available on loan (free) or for purchase ($50)
"Sisters we have not lost our power. Like our grandmothers we have the spirit to be strong, to use the gifts we each own... Our grandmothers had power and used power for the good of many nations".
Doctor, Lawyer, Indian Chief
The gifts and strengths of five Canadian Indian women are highlighted in this recently released film, by Carol Geddes, a Yukon Indian filmmaker. This sensitively done film will leave you moved by the personal stories shared by a chief of a B.C. Indian Band, facilitator of an employment readiness group for Indian women in Edmonton; a Yukon member of the legislative assembly; a B.C. fishing trawler worker; and an Ontario lawyer. All these women have gained strength from their Indian spiritual and cultural roots and their strong belief in "taking back the power." With the support and encouragement of their mothers, grandmothers and other women, they have all used their gifts for the betterment of their communities.
Reviewer, Lillian Nakamura Maguire, is Yukon director of CCLOW.