Click for next page ( 25


The National Academies | 500 Fifth St. N.W. | Washington, D.C. 20001
Copyright © National Academy of Sciences. All rights reserved.
Terms of Use and Privacy Statement



Below are the first 10 and last 10 pages of uncorrected machine-read text (when available) of this chapter, followed by the top 30 algorithmically extracted key phrases from the chapter as a whole.
Intended to provide our own search engines and external engines with highly rich, chapter-representative searchable text on the opening pages of each chapter. Because it is UNCORRECTED material, please consider the following text as a useful but insufficient proxy for the authoritative book pages.

Do not use for reproduction, copying, pasting, or reading; exclusively for search engines.

OCR for page 24
Historical Parcels of Technological Change Contemporary observers of the recent innovations in microprocessing and telecommunications technology and their diffusion often claim uniqueness for the rapidity and nature of those changes. Historians point out, however, that the characteristics of change can only be determined after change has played itself out, if such a moment can be isolated; that the rapidity or completeness of change can only be judged in comparison with previous changes; and that any assumption that technology itself is the cause of change can only be verified by historical investigation of the context of change. As C. Wright Mills (1956: 193) pointed out more than 30 years ago with reference to his generation's office machines: "Machines did not impel the development, but rather the de- velopment demanded machines, many of which were actually developed espe- cially for tasks already created." Processes of change belong to history in two fundamental ways. First, they take time to unfold; anyone who looks only at a moment of the process includ- ing the present moment runs a great risk of mistaking its character. Second, they cling to time and place; how they happen varies significantly from one time and place to others, as a direct consequence of events in previous times and places. People who want to understand these large processes must examine them in their historical contexts (filly and Tilly, 19851. This chapter uses history as a guide for understanding the complex relation- ship of technological change and women's employment. The chapter discusses both the historical characteristics of the relationship and the manner in which technological change, both in the more distant and the recent past, has been linked to changing levels of women's employment and to the quality of their work. Five cases of the effects of innovation on women's occupations are ex- 24

OCR for page 24
HISTORICAL PATTERNS OF TECHNOLOGICAL CHANGE 25 amined here. Three of the five cases involve communications and information- processing occupations that have been shaped over the long run by electronic technologies. The first case takes an innovation the telephone as its focus, examines its development and diffusion, and traces the history of the telephone operator, the women's occupation most tightly linked to that invention. The second case concerns a manufacturing industry printing and publishing and its workers in two waves of technological change. The third case looks at two sets of information-processing clerical occupations word processors such as secretaries, and data processors such as accountants, bookkeepers, insurance clerks, and bank tellers over the long period from the introduction of the first mechanized devices in the nineteenth century to the more recent introduction of electronic word and numeric data processing. For purposes of comparison with regard to the strength or weakness of the ability of women workers to shape change affecting them, the fourth example concerns retailing and its clerks, and the fifth, nursing, one of the quintessential women's professions. All the cases examine three potential sources of change in employment lev- els: (1) economic growth, both overall and within industries (which results in more jobs); (2) loss of jobs because of technological innovation; and (3) substi- tution of women for men workers, or vice versa, in an industry. The cases further discuss, to the extent possible, the relationship of technology and the quality of work in affected occupations and industries. Finally, response to change, by both unionized and nonunionized workers, is also examined in situ- ations of technological change. Throughout this examination it should be re- membered that, historically, changes in levels of employment and quality of work have been complex, caused by many factors, and contingentshaped by impersonal forces as well as by actors. THE TELEPHONE AND TELEPHONE OPERATORS The telephone is of interest both because it is the basis of an industry that has been and still is a major employer of women and because of its distinctive characteristics as an invention. De Sola Pool (1977a:3-4) describes the tele- phone as a facilitating rather than a constraining device . . . [it] seem[s] to defy definition of even the pnma~y effects; these seem polymorphous though indubitably large . . . the study of the telephone's social impact belongs to the important and subtle class of problems in the social sciences which demands a logic more complex than that of simple causality logic that allows for purposive behavior as an element in the analysis. Early in the history of the telephone, while its inventor and certain entrepre- neurs visualized a fantastic future, other businessmen and engineers failed to understand the uses to which the telephone would be put and the extent to which

OCR for page 24
26 COMPUTER CHIPS AND PAPER CLIPS it would be used. Even today there is scholarly disagreement over what indirect effects the telephone has had on people's social lives. Bell had his historic conversation with Watson on March 10,1876. By March 1878, Bell had envisioned a national switched network of business and residen- tial telephones for interpersonal communication, through which one telephone subscriber could talk to any other in the country, even though this vision was technologically infeasible at the time (de Sola Pool, 1977b: 1561. In contrast to Bell's semiprescience, others of the time were less sure of the telephone's po- tential. Shortly after Bell's perfection of the telephone, for example, William Orton, the president of the Western Union Telegraph Company, turned down an offer to buy all rights to its patent with the words, "What use could this company make of an electronic toy?" (Aronson, 1977: 161. Soon after, SirWil- liam Preece, the chief engineer of the British post office, testified to a special committee of the House of Commons that the telephone had little future in Britain (de Sola Pool, 1977b: 128~: I fancy the descriptions we get of its use in America are a lime exaggerated, though there are conditions in America which necessitate the use of such instruments more than here. Here we have a superabundance of messengers, errand boys and things of that kind.... Few have worked at the telephone much more than I have. I have one in my office, but more for show. If I want to send a messageI use a sounder or employ a boy to take it. Social commentators trying to understand the social impact of the telephone had an even less successful record than did Bell and other entrepreneurs predict- ing its technological and business impact, partly because the latter were them- selves in some position to shape the future, while the former could only imagine it. The commentators, in fact, often focused on the wrong issues, for example, emphasizing the role of the telephone in promoting world peace or in encourag- ing or reducing crime. They failed to recognize that the telephone was a facili- tating technology. The compression of space that the telephone allows had diverse effects (Gott- mann, 1977~. The telephone allowed companies to move away from their sup- pliers and customers and to concentrate in urban areas; it permitted manage- ment to establish corporate headquarters separate from their factories. It also substituted conversation over wires for the slowness of within-city mail, allow- ing companies to do business more economically through electrical communi- cation within and between large office buildings. Even as it fostered urban congestion through business concentration in cities, the telephone, like the au- tomobile and earlier transportation improvements, also promoted the suburban- . . ~ . Eaton ot lousing. Early telephone service was expensive because of technical limits; in 1896 telephone service cost $20 per month in New York. Charging for message units was the solution that opened the service to small consumers. However, as more

OCR for page 24
HISTORICAL PATTERNS OF TECHNOLOGICAL CHANGE 27 distant links were added, complexity and cost continued to increase until fully automatic switching was achieved. This improvement made possible more lo- cal calls per worker at lower cost, starting in the late 1920s. Great reductions in the time necessary to complete long-distance connections, in the number of operators needed to put a call through, and in cost came after world WarII. Toll calls per operator rose from 70 per hour in 1950 to 20,000 per hour in 1980 (Kohl, 19861. The employment effects of the telephone have not always proceeded as pre- dicted or, indeed, as intended. The first commercial telephone operators were boys, following the pattern of the older telegraph industry. Women quickly replaced the boys, who apparently were unruly tricksters when faced with the opportunity for tinkering with wire connections and teasing customers. Ac- cording to a contemporary, "the work of successful telephone operating de- manded just that particular dexterity, patience and forebearance possessed by the average woman in a degree superior to that of the opposite sex" (cited in Maddox, 1977:2661. The operators' jobs, clean and dignified, were also attrac- tive to educated, middle-class women. The Bureau of the Census in 1902 added an economic explanation for the employment of women: "Telephony, with its simpler, narrow range of work to be performed at the central office, has pro- vided opportunity for a large number of young girls at a low rate of pay, com- paring in this respect with the factory system" (quoted in Baker, 1964:691. The spread of telephone use that accompanied economic growth opened up this new occupation to women across the nation. Being an operator was a stressful job, however, combining a good deal of physical effort, supervisors' and customers' demands for precision, and con- stant interpersonal contact. Early studies noted a high incidence of nervous illness and enormous turnover. In response, the Bell system became a pioneer in offering fringe benefits like vacations and sick pay (Maddox, 1977: 269-270~. Nevertheless, unionization began early. With the help of the Women's Trade Union League, operators in Boston organized in 1908 and led a strike of New England operators against Bell in 1919. Although the physical demands of the job have decreased, pressure on opera- tors to handle calls rapidly has not; the form of the pressure has been automated as electronic monitoring of operator efficiency has taken the place of supervi- sory surveillance. The telephone operator job continues to be one with high turnover, "a classic dead-end job," as Laws (1976) called it. In this case, tech- nology was adopted in ways to promote efficiency with little attention to pro- tecting or improving job quality. What was the effect of the technology on levels of employment? Obviously, in its overall effect, the telephone stimulated job growth in cities. For operators, the years of the depression coincided with the first introduction of automatic dialing and the subsequent reduction of jobs. A study of one city's switch to a

OCR for page 24
28 dial system in 1930 showed little dism . . .. . . . COMPUTER CHIPS AND PAPER CLIPS issal of permanent operators: the com- pany planned the changeover several years in advance and took advantage of the turnover rate (40 percent per year) to hire new operators on a strictly tempo- rary basis for the two years preceding the change (in Baker, 1964:240-241). A less sanguine overview (Anderson and Davidson, 1940:426) found that "in view of lower living costs, the 32 percent fewer workers who were still em- ployed in 1933 were slightly better off than they had been formerly. For the third of the workers eliminated from the service and thrown on a flooded labor market, however, the situation has become dire." They argued, however, that although automation in telephone switching would reduce the labor force, in- creases in service would lead to continued increase of supervisory and business staff. Nevertheless, Anderson and Davidson (1940:428) concluded: "Technol- ogy has its way, obviously, only when it will reduce operating costs and yield larger profits. This usually means fewer workers in proportion to volume of business and a proportionately lower wage bill." In the long run, this view proved correct with regard to telephone operators. World War II saw an enormous increase in communications needs, including both increased demand for operators and improved services. By 1950 there were 342,000 telephone operators. The number declined subsequently to about 250,000 in 1960 and 184,000 in 1964. By 1978 there were 166,000 operators for 98 million telephones; in 1900 there had been 100,000 for 7 million tele- phones (Scott, 1982~. New jobs for women appeared in the telephone company business offices because of the increased number of customers and services offered (Baker, 1964:245, 246~. Because the administrative side of the tele- phone industry hired many women, the loss of women operators on the "pro- duction" side was compensated. Nevertheless, women did not share in the growth of the industry to the extent that men did because they were dispropor- tionately affected by the labor-saving innovations in switching. A recent study (Denny and Fuss, 1983) of employment in Canada Bell between 1952 and 1972 found that the technical change of direct long-distance dialing had a negative effect on all occupational groups studied operators, plant craftsmen, clerical workers, and other white-collar workersbut that it was greatest for the least- skilled group, operators. The effect of increased output was to increase employ- ment, and the most-skilled workers benefited disproportionately. Ironically, in the United States women were also disproportionately affected to some degree by the implementation of the consent decree agreed to by AT&T and the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission in 1973, which tended to reduce the proportion of females among operators without substantially increasing oppor- tunities for women elsewhere in the system. The number of female operators in AT&T fell from 137,493 in 1973 to 94,586 in 1979; the percentage of females among operators fell from 95.5 to 92.1 in the same period. The percentage of females in all jobs in the company also fell slightly (Northrup and Larson, 1979:46-47~.

OCR for page 24
HISTORICAL PATTERNS OF TECHNOLOGICAL CHANGE 29 The 1980 contract negotiated between AT&T and the Communications Workers of America (CWA) established technology-change committees and provided union officials with rights of notice and information with regard to technological changes. The committees are composed of three union and three management representatives from each district and are charged with "the re- sponsibility to develop facts and recommendations" after the company has pro- vided six months' notice of "any major technological changes (including changes in equipment, organization or methods of operations)." (See Chapter 4 for a discussion of the limited role of these committees to date.) The advance- notice feature came into play in 1985 when AT&T announced layoffs for 124,000 workers 60 days in advance. The layoffs resulted at least partly from the breakup of the Bell System (part of a negotiated settlement to a Justice Department antitrust suit) and the resulting increased competition with other telephone equipment and service suppliers. Competing companies enjoyed job growth with increased market share. Women employees have lost or benefited with their company. In the future, employment in some parts of the communi- cations industries may still grow with increases in demand for communications services, but in many parts employment is expected to continue to decline. In conclusion, the telephone case demonstrates the unexpected and pervasive effects of one innovation and its improvements, the way in which levels of women's employment in one occupation first benefited from and then lost ground with continuing technological change, and the uncertain effects of in- creased competition and the changing structure of product markets. It also dem- onstrates the difficulty of assigning causality to observed changes. WORKERS IN PRINTING AND PUBLISHING Women have long worked in printing. Artisan production in the U.S. colo- nial period was a household affair in which wives and daughters were em- ployed, sometimes as typesetters or helpers, sometimes as bookbinders. In 1910 Edith Abbott, a historian of women's work, wrote: "Although the number of women printers has always been small compared with the number of men in the trade, there has probably never been a time for more than a hundred years when women have not found employment in printing offices" (Abbott, 1910:247~. In the 1830s with the rise of large-circulation daily newspapers in the burgeoning cities, the relatively undifferentiated industry separated into book and job shops and newspaper publishing. Publishers in the most competi- tive and technically complex sector urban newspaperswere the pacesetters of change, much of it organizational. In this period women printers tended to cluster in the book sector, where, if they were typesetters, they did straight text, unbroken lines of type. Newspaper composition, which involved headlines, print in narrow columns that had to be justified, integration of nontype matter and breaks, was done by highly skilled men.

OCR for page 24
30 COMPUTER CHIPS AND PAPER CLIPS The International Typographical Union, a national trade union, was estab- lished in 1850 by the already numerous locals (Lipset et al., 1956: 181. In the decade before the Civil War, urban publishers who had introduced the rapidly growing evening newspapers began to hire women who had been trained on small-town newspapers or in book and job shops. During the war, a production bottleneck in composition became apparent. The first typesetting machines, developed then, offered some relief, but they were costly and likely to break down. For newspapers, they were an investment of uncertain return and were not widely adopted (Jackson, 1984: 171-174~. Instead, publishers accelerated the reorganization of production: for straight text, separated from the complex multitask compositor's job, they hired women who had no previous experience, trained them briefly, and set them to work. Skilled male workers interpreted this policy quite simply as a threat to their economic well-being; they organized and demanded equal pay for women. Employers in turn threatened to reduce male wages to those of women. Nevertheless, male compositors prevailed, partly because most newspaper composing jobs continued to require highly skilled workers; less trained women or boys could substitute for only a small propor- tion of them (Baron, 1981:321. The linotype and other automatic typesetting machines were rapidly adopted when better models were introduced in the 1880s. Compositors feared that women would be hired to run them. The manufacturers of the machines, in- deed, predicted that cheaper, less skilled workers could be substituted; pub- lishers agreed and tried to do so. They did not succeed, in part because the powerful typographers' national union centralized organizing and collective bargaining. Compositors demanded and won publishers' agreement that ma- chine operators would be apprenticed in the "trade as a whole" (Abbott, 1910:257; Lipset et al., 1956: 19; Baker, 1964:44-45~. Women continued to learn typesetting outside the apprenticeship system, however, and to be em- ployed setting straight text. Jackson (1984:176-177) concludes: "Mechaniz- ing composition had limited consequences for labor in part because it did not imply an attack upon the skill of the compositor." Sporadic typographical worker association efforts to exclude women seem to have been facilitated also by employer preference for male workers, even though they were more costly. In 1900, 10 percent of all composing room employees were women; by 1940 less than 5 percent were women, and in 1960 only 8 percent (Baker, 1964: 172,1761. Overall, the numbers and proportion of women in printing and publishing in general changed little until the 1940s. In the nineteenth century, women worked with boys as paper feeders, although here also, their proportion first declined as faster machines were introduced, and paper feeders functioned as assistants to pressmen; the proportion of females later increased once more, as the job be- came a dead end rasher then a step in a possible male career (Baker, 1964: 178~.

OCR for page 24
HISTORICAL PATTERNS OF TECHNOLOGICAL CHANGE 3 Women also performed certain specialty tasks, greeting card and paper box printing and binding. Other women in the industry had clerical jobs, or if in the production branch, they were employed in nonunion shops. For many years, printing and publishing was an exceptional case: an industry that, despite em- ployer reorganization and the introduction of technology, remained at core the province of male skilled workers; this outcome must be credited at least in part to the International Typographical Union. However, in the post-World War II period, change in the sex ratio of printing workers accelerated: the percentage of females more than doubled from 13.2 to 28 between 1950 and 1960. The more recent decades have seen an even more dramatic turn of events in newspaper publishing. In New York and other large cities, the old linotype setting was replaced during the 1960s and 1970s by teletype setting, a process that took mechanically produced punched tape and automatically produced hot metal type; the labor saving was substantial. One operator, tending three auto- matic linecasters, could produce as much type as seven or eight linotypists (Rogers and Friedman, 1980:31. Innovation continued, moreover, in the form of the "Metroset," a fully electronic machine that does not involve any hot metal type but simply phototypesets electronically produced and laid out im- ages. Reporters and editors now work in front of word-processing screens that show how a page will look; printing has been transformed. In the 1970s the newspaper typographers' unions negotiated a number of contracts that protected their members' jobs. The relevant clause from the Job Security Agreement (first negotiated in 1974 and renewed most recently in 1984) between the Northwest Typographical Union (No. 99) of Seattle, Wash- ington, and the Tribune Publishing Company of Tacoma, Washington, reads in part: The Publisher agrees that all of its composing room employees whose names appear on the attached Job Security List will be retained in the employment of the Publisher in accordance with accepted rules governing situation holders for the remainder of their working lives unless forced to vacate same through retirement, resignation, death, per- manent disability, or discharge for cause provided. The agreement provides for exceptions to the job guarantee, such as permanent cessation of the company, strikes, lockouts, acts of God (e.g., flooding, earth- quakes). Several similar agreements also provide for paid productivity leaves (leaves in addition to vacation that result from productivity improvements brought about by technological change). This particular agreement also spells out conditions of use for specific innovations and allocates functions between departments and workers. Newspaper compositors and printers in general continue to be predomi- nantly male. Nevertheless, there has been a great increase in women's employ- ment in the industry in the last two decades. Women were 28 percent of the

OCR for page 24
32 COMPUTER CHIPS AND PAPER CLIPS industry's employees in 1960, 33 percentin 1970, and41 percentin 1980. Total employment in the industry increased by 42 percent from 1970 to 1983; wom- en'semployment,bylO6percent(BureauofLaborStatistics,1985a:542-5431. Historically, the competition between men and women for jobs in printing went on for the better part of a century, during which time innovation did not displace male compositors. Finally, great labor saving came with new elec- tronic processes, employment growth slowed, and a shift in the sex ratio of workers in favor of women occurred. In this industry, women's employment increased through substitution for men that accompanied adoption of electronic automation. THE AUTOMATED OFFICE AND ITS WORKERS The nineteenth-century office was a primarily male workplace. The undiffer- entiated and potentially upwardly mobile male clerk so vividly invoked by Lockwood (1958) was aided mostly by boys messengers and "office boys"; office women, copyists or stenographers, were few. Cohn's recent (1985) study suggests that the "clerk" occupation covered a range of positions, many of which did not involve the mobility that earlier analysts imagined. However, the male presence in the office that they described remains valid. After 1870 the organization and employment patterns of clerical work in the United States changed in distinctive and important ways. Mills (1956:68-69) offers both context and a quantitative estimate of change: The organizational reason for the expansion of the white-collar occupations is the rise of big business and big government, and the consequent trend of modern social structure, the steady growth of bureaucracy . . . the proportion of clerks of all sorts has increased: from 1 or 2 percent in 1870 to 10 or 11 percent of all gainful workers in 1940. The acceleration of women's employment in clerical jobs dates from the commercialintroductionofthetypewriterin 1873 (Baker,1964:71; M. Davies, 19821. There was a 30 percent increase in the number of mostly female stenog- raphers and typists in the single decade between 1890 and 1900 (Baker, 1964:73~. In 1883 the first Burroughs adding machine was put on the market. The number of bookkeepers, cashiers, and accountants increased by 51 percent between 1880 and 1890 and by 60 percent between 1890 and 1900. Although the machines promoted accuracy and speed and thus saved labor, the increasing volume of business meant many more workers were needed. At the turn of the century, women were 29 percent of bookkeepers and accountants. In 1889 Herman Hollerith patented the punched card and counter-sorter, a device that performed calculations, classified cards, and typed out its results. Again, new jobs, many held by women, as keypunchers and machine operators, appeared. Offices began to be systematically organized, or "socially rationalized," even before the massive introduction of accounting machines and the "Taylor-

OCR for page 24
HISTORICAL PATTERNS OF TECHNOLOGICAL CHANGE 33 ization" that came during and shortly after World War I (Baker, 1964:213, quoting Mills). In the first decades of the century, economic growth promoted both the spread of machines and the reorganization of offices, with increased numbers of women workers. Differentiation and specialization occurred in both of the branches of clerical work: handling words and manipulating data. The occupation of secretary provides a closer look at the clerical occupations that deal primarily with words. The occupations that deal primarily with nu- meric data are considered below. SECRETARIES The secretarial job is found in all industries and in all sizes of offices. In small office settings, where the job involves one person working directly for a boss, substantial changes in the secretary's job often correspond to substantial changes in the boss's job. As Murphree (1985) points out, the secretarial job is a diverse one; "secre- tary" tends to be a catchall category for any office worker who performs a variety of tasks that support the work of someone else, usually a manager or professional. Although typing and filing may be the most salient (or observ- able) characteristics of the job, they actually constitute a small portion of the average secretary's time; while they require a large proportion of aggregate office work time, they are often performed by other office personnel in addition to secretaries. The average secretary performs customized tasks of an adminis- trative and personal nature for the boss; her work flow is unpredictable, as it responds to immediate demands rasher then to long-term projects. The duties of a secretary typically vary substantially according to the number of people she works for: the larger the number, the more limited and mundane her tasks are likely to be, as there simply is not time for more customized tasks. Especially in large organizations, secretarial work, like most clerical work, involves much interaction and negotiation with other divisions of the organization (with per- sonnel, contracts, purchasing, sales, travel, and so forth). Manuals of adminis- trative procedures are typically incomplete if they exist at all and acquiring information efficiently depends on having well-established informal networks with coworkers throughout the office or firm. In both large and small organiza- tions, secretarial jobs often require a high degree of interpersonal skill. The authority relations between a boss and a secretary are an important part of the job. Job duties are negotiated individually with a boss and may change with a new boss. The amount of responsibility (and challenge and variety) "given" to a secretary by a boss is highly variable. Loyalty and dedication, as well as initiative and enthusiasm, are important parts of a secretary's job. Secre- taries have generally been at the top of the clerical labor force, the best educated and best paid. The number of secretaries increased enormously with the postwar economic

OCR for page 24
34 COMPUTER CHIPS AND PAPER CLIPS expansion by 318 percent between 1950 and 1980 (Hunt and Hunt, 1985a). Technological change came to the secretarial occupation slowly, in the form of gradual improvements to the typewriter electrification, correction function, variable typefaces, electronic memory. These innovations did not involve ma- jor reorganization of work (except in the IBM concept of the centralized typing pool linked to mainframe computers, which was not widely adopted) but rather an upgrading of the quality of work that secretaries could produce, perhaps with some time saving. These technologies, and the first introduction of electronic word processing, apparently had little effect on the number of secretaries through 1980. Up to that date, the number of persons whose occupation was secretary increased more rapidly than did the labor force as a whole. In the recession of 1981-1982 the number of secretarial jobs actually decreased for the first time in history. Although growth resumed in 1983-1984, and the num- ber has returned to its former level, two close analysts of the data believe that it is apparent that "secretarial employment growth has slowed dramatically" (Hunt and Hunt, 1985a:3.16~. Whether this trend represents reduced demand or a shortage of supply is not clear. Good secretaries are skilled and valued workers, often college-educated. With new opportunities in the professions and management, college women who once might have been secretaries have sought, and found, other jobs. Murphree (1983) reports that the impact of new word-processing equipment on secretaries differs according to the degree of centralization of work, the spatial arrangements of the equipment, and the type of supervision the spatial arrangements encourage. Production in word-processing centers, where an or- ganization locates all of its word processing at a single site, is often factory- like. The work of manuscript typing is broken up into its components: the pickup and delivery of work, the monitoring and scheduling of work, the entry of words on the keyboard, proofreading, and entering corrections. Work is sometimes rigidly paced and closely monitored. In many instances the word- processing secretaries may have quotas to meet: the entry of a certain number of pages, lines, or even characters. Their work is often monotonous and meaning- less, since as word processors exclusively they are not involved in the activities to which the written work pertains (conference planning, billing, sales, re- search, and so on). The development of centralized word processing also changes the work of those who remain more general-purpose secretaries (those who do not take on one of the new specialized tasks in manuscript processing), because tasks done by the new centralized unit are no longer done by them. If many oftheir tasks are taken over by new word processors, they sometimes find themselves assigned to a larger number of bosses, and their main function be- comes gatekeeping. In contrast to the centralized pattern, secretaries who work with word-pro- cessing equipment in decentralized arrangements generally find the variety,

OCR for page 24
HISTORICAL PA17ERNS OF TECHNOLOGICAL CHANGE 5 Extending store hours to improve competitive position also contributes to stores' hiring of part-time workers. Scheduling is facilitated by computerized data from intelligent cash registers that can be used to identify fluctuations in demand. In the New England region, which led in the development of discount stores, it is estimated that fully 75 percent of all department store employees work pert time. One national discount chain estimated that only 15 percent of its work force is full time (Bluestone et al., 198 1: 83~. Much of the employment is seasonal as well as part time; only one-third of department store employees work year round; more than one-third work only one-quarter of the year, usu- ally around Christmas. The increased use of less skilled and part-time workers has also contributed to making the job of department store salesperson less likely as a career; career opportunities for the floor salesperson have virtually disappeared. These con- trasting trends reflect the reorganization of retailing just discussed: sales per- sonnel no longer "sell," but sales still occur; cashiers handle the transaction. The department store industry is now characterized by enormous turnover of young workers rather than by more stable employment of older workers. The proportion of department store workers in New England who were under 25 years old increased from 30 percent in 1958 to more than 50 percent by 1970. The percentage of the department store labor force in New England that had at least three years' tenure fell from more than 42 percent in the 1950s to less than 32 percent in the 1970s, while the percentage who had worked less than one year increased from less than 20 percent to more than 30 percent (Bluestone et al., 1981:84~. In most years between 1957 and 1975, more than 40 percent of the labor force left the industry each year. With such high turnover rates, much hiring occurs even in years of declining employment. Obviously, training is minimal; otherwise this staffing strategy could not make economic sense. Pres- sure to reduce labor costs is large, since competition is stiff and labor costs are a relatively large proportion of total costs. Payroll costs range from 11 to 14 percent of total sales in the most standardized parts of the industry (chain and discount stores) to 16 to 27 percent in the less standardized parts (holding com- panies, independents, and specialty shops). Because of the competition, unions have generally been unable to prevent pressure on wage rates, and little of the work force is unionized. The young age of the workers, the high rate of turn- over, and the large proportion of part-time workers all appear likely to make more widespread unionization difficult. Unionization has had a somewhat stronger foothold in food retailing, largely because skilled meat cutters in supermarkets were organized. In fact, workers in some of the unionized department stores (Bradlee's) became so as a result of mergers with supermarket chains (Stop and Shop). The intense competitive pressures in food retailing led to a merger between the retail clerks and the amalgamated meat cutters unions in 1979, creating the United Food and Com-

OCR for page 24
52 COMPUTER CHIPS AND PAPER CLIPS mercial Workers, with 1.2 million members. Nevertheless, the strength of the union is declining, especially in supermarkets, which had been its strongest section. Technological change in meat packing has resulted in the near elimina- tion of skilled meat cutters in supermarkets; some of the meat now arrives in the stores boxed, labeled, and ready to be sold, while most of it is in boxes of cuts (rather than whole carcasses) that need little further cutting before being pack- aged and sold; since 1974 nearly 4,000 meat cutter jobs have been lost in four cities alone Boston, New York, Chicago, and Los Angeles (Burns, 19821. Without the high end of the wage scale to "anchor" other wages, wages of supermarket workers are falling in relative terms, and unions have had to accept two-tier wage bargaining, with new entrants on lower wage scales (with smaller future increases) than present workers. Technological changes have directly contributed to the changes in retailing, particularly its increased scale and use of part-time workers, both of which have been facilitated by computerized record-keeping. Other important technologi- cal changes that have transformed the industry over a long period include gen- eral advances in communications and transportation and increased use of adver- tising. The discount branch of the industry, with its lower labor needs, is growing most rapidly. "Decreased reliance upon labor is a by-product of con- centrated ownership" (Bluestone et al., 1981:50), which continues to increase. Employment of cashiers has increased, providing a large pool of new, low- skill, low-wage jobs for women jobs with little stability and few career oppor- tunities. Other retailing employment declined or grew slowly. The basic com- petitive structure of the industry no doubt contributes to this outcome, for it leads to a strong need to keep labor costs to a minimum. NURSING AND NURSES Like the other industries discussed here (telephone communication, printing and publishing, insurance and banking, and retail trade), the health industry is undergoing fundamental structural change. The restructuring of the health sec- tor is a result of changes in insurance programs, increases in the relative supply of medical doctors, growth in the number of profit-making hospitals and clin- ics, changes in the age structure of the population, and altered preferences for types of health care. Together with technological change, these factors influ- ence the work performed and the number and qualifications of the people re- quired to do it. Employment growth in the health industry over the past several decades has been well above average. It is projected that employment growth in the health industry will continue to outpace that ofthe U.S. economy as a whole into the 1990s, but at a slower rate than that experienced during the 1970s. Nurses comprise the largest group of health professionals in the United States. The numbers of both registered nurses and licensed practical nurses

OCR for page 24
HISTORICAL PATTERNS OF TECHNOLOGICAL CHANGE 53 increased substantially between 1970 and 1980 (Bureau of the Census, 1984b). Throughout this century, the nursing occupations have both grown steadily and undergone continuous change. Until the depression, most of the trained nurses in the United States in contrast to nurses in Britain and elsewhere worked in private home nursing and community health rather than in hospitals. This fact enabled them to argue that hospital training was inadequate for their practice and to establish and consolidate a variety of educational programs, including university training for registered nurses (C. Davies, 1980~. For decades nurses have been split into different groups, according to training and accreditation, place of employment, and specialization within nursing. The most recent national sample surveys and estimates indicate that of the close to 1.7 million registered nurses, 1.4 million actually practiced their pro- fession in 1983. Adjusting for part-time workers, this amounts to 1,174,200 full-time equivalents 600 employed or 502 full-time equivalent nurses per 100,000 population. Just under one-third of employed registered nurses had a baccalaureate or higher degree. Registered nurses constitute the ninth largest occupation for women and the highest-paid predominantly female occupation. In the 1980s two-thirds of the registered nurses employed in nursing worked in hospitals. The second-largest group practiced in nursing homes (8 percent). Both of these groups exhibited the highest estimated growth rates in the em- ployment of registered nurses since 1977, 39 and 27 percent, respectively (American Nurses Association, 1985~. The growth rate in hospital employment is expected to slow and to be accompanied by changes in types of positions and by requirements for more education or experience (Sekscenski, 1984; Ameri- can Nurses Association, 19854. Although their education and training is shorter and less professionally ori- ented than that of registered nurses, licensed practical or vocational nurses (LPNs or LVNs) also require accreditation. In 1983, of an estimated 781,506 LPNs and LVNs, 539,463 (69 percent) were employed in health care. More than half of this group, 57.6 percent, worked in hospitals, followed by 22.5 percent in nursing homes, and 9.1 percent in physicians' or dentists' offices. Trends toward demands for higher formal education of nurses, particularly in hospitals, are also indicated by the fact that the total number of LPNs and LVNs has not grown as rapidly as that of registered nurses (Sekscenski, 1984: 12, 17~. And after a continuous increase in full-time equivalents of LPNs in hospitals for many years, their numbers decreased from 1982 to 1983 (American Nurses Association, 1985:46~. Unemployment rates for LPNs have usually been higher than for registered nurses (in 1983, 5.4 and 1.6 percent, respectively), but lower than for the population as a whole (American Nurses Association, 1985~. There have been only small increases in the percentage of males among nurses. The proportion of males was roughly the same among both registered

OCR for page 24
54 COMPUTER CHIPS AND PAPER CLIPS nurses and LPNs and LVNs, 3 percent in 1983 (American Nurses Association, 19851. Male nurses are generally better paid than female nurses and occupy a disproportionate share (one-fourth) of the supervisory and administrative posi- tions in nursing (Jacobson, 1983:501. More LPNs and LVNs than registered nurses are ethnic or racial minorities, reflecting less access to higher-level education by minorities, but whites domi- nate both occupations, constituting more than 90 percent of registered nurses in 1980 and close to 80 percent of LPNs and LVNs in 1983 (American Nurses Association, 1985; National League for Nursing, 19851. In 1980 an estimated 88.7 percept ofminority registered nurses were employed in nursing, compared with 75.7 percent of nonminority nurses. Nursing has been strongly affected by technological developments in medi- cine and the biosciences. Both in hospitals and in the community, nurses have continually had to adjust to innovations in medical technology. Computers and information technology, more generally, are increasingly linked to other forms of technology in use in the health services. Computers were first introduced in the U.S. health care system in the 1950s. They were by-products of computerization in other sectors of the economy, not specifically designed for health services. The first applications occurred in large hospitals, primarily for administrative routines such as inventory control, billing, and payroll. Few health professionals were involved in the develop- ment and refinement of computer systems in hospitals. Laboratories in large hospitals were the first clinical area in which computers were applied success- fully. Medical statistics were also an important application, parallel to adminis- trative computing. Only occasional attempts were made to integrate clinical and administrative systems. Knowledge and learning are central aspects in the diffusion of technology (Rosenberg, 1976~. In the first phase of computerization of hospitals, not much transfer of knowledge about the new technology, let alone about its intercon- nections with organizational change, occurred. Expertise with computers and computer use in the health services was located either outside hospitals, with vendors and shared-service computer companies, or in separate computer de- partments, which only large hospitals could afford. The hospitals that started early to use computers for accounting and patient records steadily developed more complex procedures. At the same time, technology and concomitant spe- cialization increased the necessity for coordination and communication. One of the main functions of nursing became the coordination of a whole array of specialist medical competences in the service of patients (Fagerhaugh et al., 1980~. While a few individuals in the 1950s envisaged the possibility of auto- mating selected nursing activities and records, computing procedures were cumbersome, and reprogramming was costly. Staffing requirements for man- aging and improving computer systems and the complexity of the structure of

OCR for page 24
HISTORICAL PA77ER~S OF TECHNOLOGICAL CHANGE 55 information and communication in hospitals were grossly underestimated (Ball and Hannah, 19841. Gradually, mainframe computers were replaced by minicomputers and mi- crocomputers, keypunching machines by direct data entry. Improvements of computer systems notwithstanding, many forms of "resistance to" or "interfer- ence with" computerization on the part of doctors, middle management, nurses, and clerical and technical personnel are reported from the 1950s into the 1980s (Startsman and Robinson, 1972; Henskes and Kronick, 1974; Watson, 1974; Dowling, 1980; Counte et al., 19831. Frequently, the organization of the implementation process is cited as a cause for resistance or reluctance: lack of timely information, loss of power and control, insufficient attention paid to the privacy of patient information, and so forth. Overselling by vendors and unreal- istic expectations of health care personnel led to lack of involvement in improv- ing systems by personnel theoretically able to do so. Changes in traditional procedures of practice are often mentioned as a reason for resistance (Ball and Hannah, 1984~. Doctors, for example, persisted in giving direct orders or hand- written notes to clerks, while nurses often continued to write most of their notes by hand (Lievrouw, 19841. In spite of or perhaps partly because of- comput- erization, administrative work in hospitals and in the health sector in general increased considerably, and with it the number of clerical workers. By 1983 the health industry employed 1.2 million workers in clerical occupations, more than double the number employed in 1970 (Sekscenski, 19841. Beginning in the middle of the 1970s, there was a marked increase in the interest of doctors and nurses in computerization and other information technol- ogies. This change resulted both from accumulated experience with the new technologies and from a growing realization of the potential and the feasible adoption of increasingly useful techniques of microtechnology and data base management. Medical informatics became a specialty in medicine, with its own journals and conferences. An extensive variety of specific applications were developed during this period, ranging from hospital and laboratory infor- mation systems using specialized diagnostic and patient monitoring, to signal analysis and image processing, to educational and research applications. Many of these technologies integrate knowledge from different medical and nursing specialties, but their use leads again to the formation of new groups of special- ists. The changes influence the employability of nurses and make frequent re- training necessary. Depending on how the technologies are organized, they can also constitute sources of stress in the work situation, both in relationship to patients and in the nursing team (Jacobson and McGrath, 1983; Ball and Han- nah, 1984). The monitoring of births and of patients in coronary, neonatal, or postopera- tive intensive care are examples. Initially, computers were used to analyze electrocardiograms. Data were presented on paper trace records and later on

OCR for page 24
56 COMPUTER CHIPS AND PAPER CLIPS video display units (VDUs) in alphanumeric and graphic form. Watching ma- chines was a tedious, strenuous nursing task, so alarms were combined with the computers and were programmed to alert personnel to deviations from normal. With the further development of the technology of representation of physiologi- cal processes and the reduction of noisy signals, technical experts saw total automation as a possibility. It has been suggested that fully automated systems could lead to a reduction in nursing staff time as well as in the medical/technical knowledge necessary on the part of nurses. Automated monitoring, combined with other technology, could result in continuous recording over extended pe- riods, increased automatic storage and analysis of records, and automatic gen- eration of suggestions for treatment and automatic administration of medication (Fox, 19771. The diverse patterns in the introduction of patient monitoring devices in different countries suggest that as in other areas one cannot speak of "the effect" of the new information technology on nurses. Effects depend on choices regarding the extent of automation, training of personnel, their reliance on the data and their discretion in interpreting them in conjunction with direct observa- tion of patients, the distance of the equipment from the patient and the rest of the ward, and so on. A strong commitment on the part of both nurses and physi- cians to the importance of intensive personal nursing at the bedside and to support for the patient's family seems to underlie decisions about many moni- toring systems that purposely have not been totally automated. Increased au- thority of nurses combining different forms of observation of patients and in- creased consultation among members of health care teams are also reported as possible outcomes of the introduction of patient monitoring (Medical Infor- matics Europe, 1982, 1984; Ball and Hannah, 1984; Child et al., 19841. Today nurses are more often consulted when information technology is intro- duced into hospitals and other health care settings than they previously were. Nurses are also among the developers of special nursing applications of com- puter and information technology, including video and telecommunication sys- tems. Manufacturers and vendors have employed nurses to improve existing systems. IBM, for example, has underlined the importance of user involvement at Duke University in adapting its patient care system (PCS) to local hospital needs not necessarily envisaged by the designers: participants in the implemen- tation process at individual hospitals are nurses and other health care personnel as well as computer specialists (Light, 1983~. In addition to improvements in hospital administration systems, laboratory systems, and patient monitoring systems as seen from the viewpoint of nurses, one now finds special computer applications for nursing practice and administration in hospitals and commu- nity health settings, for basic and continuing nursing education, and for nursing research. Telemedicine, a system that allows practitioners to function without on-site physician coverage, through bidirectional cable television, is being

OCR for page 24
HISTORICAL PATTERNS OF TECHNOLOGICAL CHANGE 57 tried in community clinics staffed by nurses (Cunningham et al., 19781. In contrast to earlier computer-based systems with implicit models of the work of nurses, several of the most recent specific nursing applications are based on explicit philosophies of nursing. Examples of such systems range from prob- lem-oriented patient care systems (McNeil!, 1979) to systems for clinical deci- sion support to be used in the education and practice of nurses (Grobe, 1984; Ryan, 19851. The possible employment effects of such systems are, however, hardly spelled out. As is the case for other expert systems, there are possibilities for raising the professional standing and knowledge of one's own group as well as possibilities of diffusion of knowledge to groups with less formal education. The latter effect can lead to replacement or curtailment of growth of the "ex- pert" group through employment of groups with less formal training. Systems planned as labor-saving devices might turn out to demand increased input of labor of another kind, either more or less professional, in this case either more or less directly involved in nursing practice. Whether groups of workers per- ceive the introduction of new technology as a threat to be averted or as a chal- lenge to further their own interests will depend partly on their knowledge base both about their own field and about the technology in question. Professional education and accreditation alone are not sufficient for such a knowledge base. Both formal and informal networks are necessary for gathering information, comparing experiences, and contacting designers and vendors. In the case of physicians and nurses, professional organizations and interna- tional contacts have been starting points for the activities of individuals and small groups specializing in computerization in their fields. Nurses interested in computers and information technology have been able to use their general professional journals for this purpose; they have also established communica- tion and publication channels of their own. An increasing number of books and articles are available to nurses who want an introduction to computing. There are "how to" guides complete with addresses of network contacts, calculations of cost-effectiveness for a nursing administrator, and analyses of data base sys- tems for a nursing computer specialist. There have been many national and international conferences on medical informatics in the 1980s with sections on computers in nursing. In 1982 the nurse members of the American Association for Medical Systems and Informatics (AAMSI) formed a professional specialty group for nursing within the association. Nursing educators in the United States may affiliate with the health education special interest group within the interna- tional Association for the Development of Computer Based Instructional Sys- tems. Informal computer interest groups within the national nursing associa- tions have existed for some time. Recently, the American Nurses' Association constituted a Council on Computer Applications in Nursing. In the spring of 1985 the National League of Nursing formed its National Forum on Computers

OCR for page 24
58 COMPUTER CHIPS AND PAPER CLIPS in Health Care and Nursing, a "membership group designed to advance com- puter technology in the nursing community." Much cross-fertilization of ideas for improving information technology in nursing occurs in international fo- rums. Since its first meeting in Stockholm in 1974, the International Medical Informatics Association (IMIA) has held meetings biannually, with special working groups for nursing education. In 1982 an international working group on nursing was formed as part of the IMIA. The historic experience of nursing and nurses demonstrates once more the interrelationships between technical change and social relationships. Hospital personnel, including nurses, have become actively involved in the introduction of electronic innovations in patient care. Nurses have organized, through col- lective bargaining and other means, to participate in the development and im- plementation of new technologies. Employment effects for nurses so far have been small, because of nurses' knowledge and types of jobs, coupled with generally strong growth in health sector employment. The high level of educa- tion of nurses has no doubt facilitated their participation in implementation of new technology and contributed to their job security in the face of change. Comparison with European experiences shows, once again, that the same tech- nologies can be used with very different effects. In the United States, very recent change in federal government rules affecting Medicare reimbursement (the Diagnosis-Related-Group [DRG] basis for fee payment) has produced shorter average hospital stays; some job loss fornurses and other hospital work- ers has occurred in 1984 and 1985. Other sectors of health care are still grow- ing, and some shifts in employment to those sectors (e.g., health maintenance organizations, nursing homes, offices of nonphysician providers, home health care agencies) are likely to occur. Again, it is too early to evaluate these effects and, in particular, to observe their relationship to technology as separate from more general social and political decisions. CONCLUSIONS Like the telephone, the new telecommunications and microprocessing tech- nologies facilitate many product and service activities. As more information is available in electronic form, it can be transmitted around the country and the world almost instantaneously. The space and time compression of modern tele- communications may have the same mixed and sometimes conflicting ef- fects on social relations and on geographic dispersion as did the telephone. Similarly, microprocessing has been related both to the growth of new services (in banks and insurance) and the decline of others (sales help in retailing). More generally, the flexibility ofthe new while-collar technologies suggests that their uses and effects will be influenced by concurrent social changes and by social decisions rather than by any inexorable technological determinism.

OCR for page 24
HISTORICAL PATTERNS OF TECHNOLOGICAL CHANGE 59 What common strands can we extract from these long-term and more recent changes associated with technological innovations in the various cases de- scribed above? What problems emerge for further consideration? First, as the longer-term historical examples demonstrate, changes in equipment and in the organization of work occur in combination with other structural change in prod- uct and labor markets. In each of the cases discussed, technological change has occurred along with fundamental changes in industrial structure. Identifying the specific impact of technological change is therefore difficult. Second, technological change plays varying roles in economic growth. Ne- cessity is sometimes the mother of invention (when an innovation meets a per- ceived need often called induced technological change), but invention is also sometimes the mother of necessity (when it creates demand by bringing forth new possibilities that people had not known they would want called autono- mous technological change). The telephone and the automobile are quintessen- tial examples of the latter. And in insurance and banking, the ease of calculation and communication caused by the new information-processing technologies led to enormous growth in the products and services that could be offered. Unforeseen effects occur as much internally in an innovating firm's labor mar- ket as in its product market. A new technique is often first seen as a simple replacement for an old process, but when it does not quite fit with the old way of doing things, new ways of doing things may evolve and unforeseen ways of using the new technique may develop. Third, consequently there is great diversity in the way organizations use technical advances with varying employment effects. In some kinds of pro- duction (printing and meat cutting), recent technological and organizational change has been very labor saving, and worker displacement occurred when demand increases were not large. In the banking and insurance industries, rapid growth has prevented displacement, but if the rate of growth slows dramati- cally, there may be similar effects. In other kinds of work (secretarial and nurs- ing), however, the variety of the tasks and the social relations on the job have led to little labor displacement, and little is likely in the future; the personal relationships that are part of these jobs are not amenable to automation, al- though many of the tasks are. While the uses of technology are social choices, those choices are often constrained by such factors as competition and labor force availability. Some businesses may be more constrained than others because of such factors as their market position, the degree of competition they face, the extent of product differentiation they can create, their maturity, the amount of labor they employ relative to other inputs, and the stage of major technological change they may be undergoing. Given this diversity, it follows that workers' and managers' interests will sometimes diverge. It is difficult to find, in the past or the present, instances of workers' introduction of technological change; these decisions are

OCR for page 24
60 COMPUTER CHIPS AND PAPER CLIPS generally management 's. Sometimes cooperation in training and learning among workers themselves can speed adoption and facilitate the efficient use of new techniques. Nevertheless, workers must generally adapt as best they can. It should be remembered, however, that managers are also workers middle management in particular may be threatened by new technologies that have implications for changing the nature (and number) of their jobs. Fourth, with respect to the skill levels required for given jobs, there are countervailing tendencies of increased complexity and of greater simplification and standardization. Some technical developments in telecommunications and financial services for example, satellite and information technologies re- quire more sophisticated personnel. In other areas, standardization akin to in- dustrialization in the last century is occurring, particularly in service delivery, with likely tendencies toward lowering average skill levels. Examples here include data entry and mass mailing of standard life insurance policies. Fifth, the recent rapid increase of women in the labor force has been a corre- late of recent change in the service sector, just as an earlier transfer of women from household production to wage work outside the home accompanied changes in manufacturing (textiles, garment making). Most of the recent in- crease in women's employment in services has not been a result of competition with men and replacement of male by female workers: the feminization of the office, for example, occurred long before the introduction of microprocessing and telecommunications technologies. Rather, substantial increases in the de- mand for labor have been met by women. Employment growth, then, has been related to overall expansion of service industries, both absolutely and in com- parison with the manufacturing sector. Both the recent and past changes demon- strate that the decline or disappearance of specific jobs is offset by growth elsewhere. In the past, employment declines in some areas produced varied effects: turnover and natural attrition were sufficient to avoid involuntary un- employment; some involuntary separation occurred; and growth in other occu- pations offered new jobs for some, probably most, workers. Recent increases in structural unemployment, however, raise concerns about the future. So, too, do the unequal effects of such unemployment on recently hired people, less edu- cated minority workers, and handicapped workers. Sixth, with respect to the issue of employment quality, in the past some employers were forced by circumstances to improve the quality of work for example, by too great turnover (as in the early years of telephone operating). Worker mobilization and demands sometimes achieved improvement or job protection. Other employers were motivated to improve work quality by a gen- uine wish to improve conditions for their employees. Such policies have been most often implemented in periods of expansion and prosperity. Today, there is heightened consciousness of quality of employment issues among both em-

OCR for page 24
HISTORICAL PATTERNS OF TECHNOLOGICAL CHANGE 61 players and workers in a less expansionary econom. ic climate. The possible consequences are not clear. Women workers today have more opportunities generally, higher and more continuous labor force participation, and greater expectations. Their turnover rate now closely resembles that of men workers. In some occupations women are prospering; in other occupations, their jobs are at risk; in still others, the quality of their employment is low. The next chapter provides an overview of present levels of employment and occupation structure and considers future prospects for women workers.