Below is the uncorrected machine-read text of this chapter, intended to provide our own search engines and external engines with highly rich, chapter-representative searchable text of each book. Because it is UNCORRECTED material, please consider the following text as a useful but insufficient proxy for the authoritative book pages.
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
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
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
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
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~.
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.
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~.
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
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-
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
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,
HISTORICAL PATTERNS OF TECHNOLOGICAL CHANGE 35 autonomy, and skills of their jobs less affected. They continue to perform tasks they always have: meeting time emergencies, handling unpredictable tasks, and using negotiating and social skills to deal with difficult people. Murphree's research supports the view that word-processing equipment either is making little difference in secretarial work (where it is incorporated into the normal routine, substituting for some typing) or is contributing to the reorganization of work, the subdivision of jobs, and the deskilling of the secretarial job. Hirschhorn (n.d.) suggests that the traditional secretarial job is becoming increasingly obsolete with the introduction of automation into offices. But he sees it being replaced by different types of paraprofessional jobs, rather than being deskilled. As managers and professionals increasingly do their own key- boarding, those who formerly served as their secretaries take on new duties. New software and the integration of data bases allow the combination of words, graphics, and data in "printing" high-quality reports. According to Hirschhorn (n.d.:1), secretaries may "supervise a document production process, rather than operate within it." They might monitor the organization of work, maintain the equipment and software, seek new applications, negotiate with suppliers and users, and instruct and serve users. Hirschhorn proposes that three parapro- fessions may be emerging: the parapublisher, the paralibrarian, and the para- manager. The first supervises the document production process; the second supervises computer-based file and index management an increasingly im- portant function, since knowledge of how to gain access to the stored informa- tion becomes more critical as more is stored; and the third prepares reports or schedules for managers. Hirschhorn's research supports the view that lines be- tween managers and secretaries are blurring. Although office automation has been occurring more or less continuously for some time, with varying effects on the secretarial job, it is important to realize that offices are by no means fully automated today. Reasons offered by analysts include the diversity of equipment available, the lack of appropriate software, and the cost of both hardware and software. It is also possible that the slow adoption of automation is linked to the fact that some of the new office equip- ment's capabilities challenge fundamental work hierarchies. The "new office," where similar equipment is used by workers at different levels who share access to integrated information systems, suggests some blurring of the customary lines between managers and support staff; a consequence may be slow or in- complete transformation (Salmans, 1982; Iacono and Kling, 1986; also see section below, "Bank Tellers," regarding an urban bank's introduction of data- processing equipment to its customer service department with the express in- tention of contributing to the democratization of the office). Moreover, many of the interaction and negotiation functions of secretaries noted above, for exam- ple, may not be readily susceptible to automation. Of the new automated capabilities that are available, word processing is by
36 COMPUTER CHIPS AlID PAPER CLIPS far the most widely used and seems to be gaining the most rapid acceptance. One Fortune 500 company that automated with the goal of doubling the produc- tivity of its salaried staff in the decade of the 1980s estimated that word process- ing had reached nearly 50 percent of its intended users within the first four years of the program. The company had estimated that the largest demand would be for transaction processing (on-line purchase orders, sales, travel vouchers, and so on), which had already been automated to some degree, and it completed the automation of this type of work early in its decade-long phased changes. In addition to word and transaction processing, other functions undergoing auto- mation in this company were technical computation, data inquiry, business analysis, and electronic mail. Overall, the program has expanded the use of automation: just before its start in early 1979, only 6 percent of the salaried staff used automated equipment; by January 1983, 21 percent did (Alexander, 1983~. In this company an effort was made to reach managers, professionals, and technicians as well as clerical workers; however, some of the uses of auto- mation were clearly intended more for one group than for others. One unin- tended effect of the shift to automation was the subtle realignment of many jobs at all levels as the nature and relative importance of various tasks in any one job changed and as tasks shifted between jobs. The popularity of word processing no doubt has to do with its relatively low cost, its technical capabilities, and its obvious usefulness as a way to avoid repetitive typing tasks, which constitute a large proportion of office work. Al- though word processing, like the other automated office functions, has been available on a range of equipment from mainframe computers through mini- computers to stand-alone units, its growth has increased since the advent of the stand-alone. Stand-alone units may be dedicated word processors or more flexi- ble personal computers. The typical large organization office today is likely to have access to and make use of a variety of computerized services on different- sized machines. For example, word processing may be available on a minisys- tem in a centralized location for major manuscript jobs as well as on stand-alone units or terminals at the secreta~y's (or professional's) desk for smaller tasks. Data inquiry is likely to be available from a mainframe through a desk terminal or personal computer. The technical composition of offices is in a very fluid state as improved equipment continues to be introduced. The "newest" config- uration is a desk workstation that allows access to a large data base, automated filing, data analysis capacities, word-processing and other report formatting tools, computer mail (including automatic calendar functions), telecommuni- cations more generally, and other specific services. By one estimate, 32 million to 38 million workstations will be in place by 1990 with an average investment of $25,000 (Johnson and Rice, 19831. Office equipment purveyors have made exaggerated claims of productivity increase for much of this new equipment just as sellers always do. Early esti-
HISTORICAL PATTERNS OF TECHNOLOGICAL CHANGE 37 mates of the effects of office automation suggested that secretarial output could increase from 25 to 150 percent with the introduction of word processing. There has been little actual study of productivity before and after installation of word- processing equipment, so it is difficult to verify such claims. It may be that one of the motivations for the adoption of office automation is managers' fascina- tion with new technologies and their exaggerated hopes of potential productiv- ity gains (Iacono and Kling, 19861. After the equipment is introduced, its short- comings become obvious and its use becomes routinized with few new, exciting applications being developed. As time goes on and new and better equipment is developed and enters the marketplace, managers become disap- pointed with their old equipment and possibly replace it with new. According to Johnson and Rice (1983), who interviewed representatives of 196 organizations by telephone about the implementation of office automation, word-processing systems have usually been brought into organizations with little planning. The initiative usually came from management (90 percent), and often one manager was responsible for the choice of equipment and the imple- mentation process (61 percent). Initial decisions were influenced most by con- siderations of cost; later decisions to upgrade, replace, or augment were more influenced by factors such as vendor training, maintenance, and ease of appli- cation. Training needs were vastly underestimated; little evidence was found of "orderly procurement and installation of equipment, design of jobs, or overall attempts to integrate" (Johnson and Rice, 1983:31. No organization studied in advance the way work and work relations might change. Rather, the innovation was generally thought of as a "horseless carriage," in this case an automated typewriter, that would simply replace one machine without changing anything else. Widespread anecdotal evidence attests to the frequent frustration that oc- curs when planning and training are inadequate, equipment fails, and tasks are continually altered and shifted without sufficient attention to the consequences. These common experiences may be compared with those of one distinctive case, in which the managers of an organization deliberately established a plan- ning/implementation team (Yin and Moore, 19841. This team, composed of representatives ranging from top management to secretarial levels, planned and reviewed the implementation of a new office automation system over a one- year period. The collaboration and feedback led to the ability to adapt the new system to the ongoing needs of the organization. Workstations were located and applications and job responsibilities were developed parallel to existing func- tions, thereby improving the transition from the old to the new system. In addi- tion, the planning/implementation team became a long-term mechanism for considering new applications, the expansion of the original system, and the upgrading of the system in terms of newer hardware. In summary, during the recent period of widespread adoption of electronic word processing the number of secretaries has not decreased. Although the rate
38 COMPUTER CHIPS AND PAPER CLIPS of growth of the occupation has slowed, the relationship between the adoption of new technology and this slowdown is not clear. There has been some sp~ecial- ization and differentiation of functions with the introduction of electronic infor- mation processing. Newly specialized workers doing routine word entry are no longer "secretaries" in the broad sense. Several researchers report that the process of introducing microprocessing equipment in large organizations as well as in small offices has been inadequately thought through and planned. Both workers and managers have suffered (or have not benefited to the degree anticipated) as a consequence. Many secretaries have been able to reduce time spent on unpleasant tasks and take on more challenging work; others have found themselves working for more bosses and taking on more gatekeeping as productivity improvements have facilitated doubling up. Finally, it is also pos- sible that the new technology could facilitate secretaries taking on functions, such as financial planning, now reserved to managers. Whether such a flatten- ing of hierarchies is likely depends on the extent to which established organiza- tional relationships are maintained or transformed. ACCOUNTANTS AND BOOKKEEPERS Mechanical devices have a long history in the data-processing clerical occu- pations; electronic devices were introduced earlier in these occupations than in word processing. Even before World War I, accountants and bookkeepers be- came differentiated occupations in the handling of business accounts. The num- ber of women bookkeepers using machines increased, but male clerks tended to resist these changes; some of them lost their jobs to women as a consequence. The greater volume of work and new services that proliferated during the war created still more jobs for women. The Women's Bureau reported that by the end of the war, women were "entrenched as bookkeeping machine operators in customer accounts" (Erickson, 1934, quoted in Strom, 1985: 17~. Women were being hired instead of men because they made possible (according to one busi- nessman) "a greater volume of business and lower unit cost. Women were paid less than men so cost reduced" (Erickson, 1934, quoted in Strom, 1985: 191. Office employment rose more rapidly in the 1920s and 1930s than the num- ber of machines sold (Mills, 1956: 193; Strom, 1985~. Apparently, once a cer- tain level of machine adoption was reached, the number of workers again in- creased. Offices in large firms continued to be reorganized and centralized. Factory-like techniques were applied, as tasks were analyzed, functions sepa- rated, and workers arranged in efficient spatial relationship to each other. The depression saw continued feminization of the bookkeeping field with increased use of machines, again the result of cost-cutting by employers. The period also saw the first large-scale organizing, mostly in the CIO affiliates the United Office and Professional Workers, the United Federal Workers, and the State,
HISTORICAL PORE - S OF TECHNOLOGICAL CHANGE 39 County, and Municipal Workers of America. These unions organized clerical workers in both data-processing and stenography jobs. (Some of these unions collapsed in the postwar period when their leaders refused oaths required by the Taft Hartley Act.) Another boom in bureaucracy occurred during World War II; again, there was greatly increased demand for calculators, bookkeeping and billing ma- chines, improved machine and work design, and increased female employ- ment. As new opportunities opened or military service beckoned, male workers left bookkeeping. Mills (1956:204), in a sociological study that is now a historical source, stressed the "factory-like flow of work" in which numeric data were processed and analyzed in the modern office; an increasing proportion of routine jobs (p. 205~; and the demotion of "the stratum of order bookkeepers . . . to the level of the clerical mass" (p. 207~. He concluded (p. 2091: "the new office is rational- ized: machines are used, employees become machine attendants; the work . . . is standardized for interchangeable, quickly replaceable clerks; it is specialized to the point of automation." The 1950s saw the earliest business application of computers that had been developed for scientific calculation and research. Historians of technology dis- agree about whether the new computers are a continuation of trends in mechani- zation, a change in kind not degree, or a break. Earlier, one analyst argues, "the pioneering firms had little incentive to put on the market devices which might displace profitable existing data processing machinesmainly punched card tabulators and calculators" (Rhee, 1968:541. By the mid-19SOs, however, elec- tronic computers with greatly increased capacity for data storage and rapid calculation were being installed by banks and insurance companies that handled large amounts of numeric data (Department of Scientific and Industrial Re- search, 1956:42~. The possible adverse employment effect of electronic technology was dis- cussed in the 1960s (Baker, 1964:2201: "Observers seem to agree that the dis- placement of workers will go farthest in the office, and that since office automa- tion aims principally to replace routine, repetitive jobs, women clerical workers may be the largest affected group." Other contemporary observers differed; they saw a greater effect on employment in manufacturing. Baker noted that case studies of several insurance companies that installed computers showed that in some situations there was "considerable upgrading of job content and skill" (p. 2251. She concluded, finally, that "an expanding economy will sup- ply clerical jobs for all who seek them" (p. 235~. Indeed the number of bookkeepers did increase, but unevenly, from 1950 to 1980. There were two slow periods, the 1950s and the 1970s, divided by a rapid spurt in the 1960s. After another short growth spurt in the late 1970s, the growth of jobs in bookkeeping has stagnated. Any relationship of this pattern to
40 COMPUTER CHIPS AND PAPER CLIPS the introduction of microprocessing equipment would be hard to establish, for growth slowed after 1978, well before wide-scale adoption of microcomputers (Hunt and Hunt, 1985a). The increased use of mainframe computers was un- doubtedly important over the whole period. The data-processing occupations have been highly stratified by sex. Accoun- tants and auditors, the higher-status, better-paying branch, were 90 percent male until World War II and 85 percent in 1950, while women were an increas- ingly high proportion of bookkeepers and cashiers, 78 percent in 1950. By 1980 the proportion of accountants who were women was 38 percent, while book- keepers were 90 percent female. In the 1980 census, accountants were reclassi- fied from "professional workers" to "management-related occupations"; this change suggests reorganization of job content and, perhaps, some downgrading of the occupation as the proportion of females in it has increased. In the first wave of electronic automation, then, women's jobs increased in bookkeeping and accounting both through growth of the industry and through substitution of women for men. It is still too close in time to the very recent wave of automation in bookkeeping to separate its effects from those of general reorganization of tasks in the field and to weigh the relative consequences for levels of women's employment of the technology and the changes in which it is embedded. INSURANCE CLERKS Work in the insurance industry had been routinized decades before electronic data processing was introduced. In the back offices of the large companies, functions were broken down into discrete tasks, and paper moved around the office (often rather large ones with many rows of desks) with each person con- tributing a fragment to the complete activity. Baran (1985) attributes this early rationalization and the division of labor of insurance offices to their similarity to factories large-scale producers and manipulators of their product, data. The insurance industry was a leader in adopting mainframe computers. They were used to determine the routing of work and to perform repetitive functions, such as premium transactions and claims disbursements. As computers were introduced, employment grew in two areas: professional-level computer spe- cialists (e.g., programmers and systems analysts) and clerical workers (com- puter equipment operators and keypunch operators). The logic of the work flow changed very little; the computer simply did some tasks that had formerly been done manually. During the early introductions of computers, there were varying patterns of effect on numbers of workers. One large company with 4,500 clerical workers in 1960 eliminated 757 traditional clerical positions and added 154 new key- punchers by 1964; managerial and technical staff increased, but since the new
HISTORICAL PA17ERNS OF TECHNOLOGICAL CHANGE 41 employees were primarily male, there was a decrease in the proportion of fe- males ofthe work force (Helfgott, 1966, cited in Feldberg and Glenn, 1983~. A Bureau of Labor Statistics study (1966) of the introduction of electronic data processing in another large insurance company found "relatively few lay-offs" as a direct result. This result was believed to have been possible because of the high turnover of the tabulating and calculating machine operators, most ofthem young women. However, there were fewer ent~-level jobs for young high school graduates because the skills required for first jobs in the new areas in- creased. Advances in both hardware and software design led to the computerization of some aspects of underwriting and rating in which the computer, using al- gorithms, would make decisions formerly made by underwriters and raters. But until the mid-1970s, these changes occurred within the established organiza- tion of production. In the late 1970s, however, several factors produced pres- sure for more far-reaching changes. Inflation, high but unstable interest rates, deregulation accompanied by increasing competition from other parts of the financial industry, and systematic applications of computer and information technologies created both the demand for and the possibility of reorganizing the insurance industry. This reorganizing was done in two ways: by installation of electronic data processing in horizontally integrated systems and by feminiza- tion. The new automation modified the work process. While the early use of com- puters was based on and reinforced the fragmentation of jobs within established hierarchies, the newer applications of information technology integrate frag- mented tasks to create new jobs, often while eliminating old ones. An example ofthis reorganization comes from property and casualty insurance, where back- off~ce jobs with the carrier are being eliminated in favor of data entry and complete processing by local sales agents (Appelbaum, 1984:10~: One. metier in~'r~.r is rl~.v~.]f~ninc, rnmn''t~.r nrnar~m~ chat racist in ',ntle.rmntin~ once GAIL Jam ^~^v_~_^ · · EVE r^--~~~^r~~~- or----- ^ w- - rating of these commercial lines, and (sales) agents are being trained to use these pro- grams . . . highest volume agents (about 10 percent of the sales force) [are supplied] with intelligent terminals linked to the central computer . . . and to printers capable of issuing a policy. When the procedures are fully implemented, all clerical processing will be eliminated for sales generated by these agents. Policy typist, rater, and underwriter's assistantjobs which provided career paths from clerical to lower level professional jobs as underwritersare disappearing . . . and lower level jobs as insurance profession- als are rapidly declining as well. "Personal lines" insurance standardized products that can be mass-mar- keted through direct mail and television advertisement provides a second ex- ample. In one company the unskilled jobs of mail handling and filing were automated by 1980; policies were entered directly into the computer, and cus-
42 COMPUTER CHIPS AND PAPER CLIPS lamer inquiry clerks could key into the system to answer questions about cover- age immediately. The work process was extremely fragmented, however. De- pending on whether they came by mail or telephone, customer inquiries were answered by different people with different job titles. To save money in an intensely competitive market, the company undertook steps to reintegrate the work process. By 1983 a new, highly skilled clerical position had been de- signed. Customer service representatives handle sales, have access to the com- puter program that assesses risks and to the rating program, explain rating pro- cedures to customers, answer customer questions, and respond to complaints by telephone or mail (Applebaum, 1984:121. Here, job integration ranges across functions, combining sales with processing and both with customer serv- ice/client relations. A third model the use of computers in insurance in the early pattern coexists with the integrated models; computers assist profes- sionals and clerks in traditional jobs who produce insurance policies that cannot be standardized. These examples offer interesting contrasts. In the first one, some clerical duties and professional activities were folded over into sales work to create a new kind of sales position. The remaining professional activities, e.g., under- writing exceptional cases and overseeing the work of the agents, were at the highest level. Some clerical jobs e.g., typing reports, processing exceptional cases, and entering data remain. In the second example, clerical duties have been expanded to include some sales and professional activities, supported by computerized systems. Here the sales force and professional positions were greatly reduced in number. The model of work organization varies by the kind of business a firm does, but in all of the varieties of work organization "job categories have become more abruptly segmented while avenues of mobility between them have been sharply reduced" (Appelbaum, 1984: 121. As a result of the automation of un- derwriting and claims estimating for standardized insurance policies, career ladders from skilled clerical to insurance professional positions have been elim- inated or shortened. The gap between these types of jobs has widened at the same time that the gap between entry-level clerical jobs and skilled ones has become formidable. In the aggregate, skill requirements for clerical workers have increased because computers are doing the most routine tasks. At the same time, however, jobs at all levels have become increasingly dead end. Feminization occurred as the insurance business reorganized. Between 1970 and 1978, women were hired in 231,000 of the 259,000 new jobs created in the insurance industry. Over the next four years women were hired for 113,900 jobs, while men were hired for only 20,300. Women increased their proportion in clerical and nonclerical (professional, managerial, and technical) jobs that were formerly preponderantly male. Minority women also increased their pro- portion in insurance jobs as automation proceeded, but most of them are in
HISTORICAL PATTERNS OF TECHNOLOGICAL CHANGE 43 back-off~ce jobs in data-processing centers, typing pools, and filing depart- ments (Baran, 19851. Overall employment in insurance from 1958 to 1984 is estimated to have increased 1.72 times, slightly above the average (1.67 times) for the economy as a whole (Hunt and Hunt, 1985a). At the same time, produc- tivity growth meant that sales grew faster than employment. In the aggregate, the number of women in insurance has increased both absolutely and relative to the number of men during automation. Based on her case study of 55 insurance companies, Baran (1985) concludes that although the discrimination barrier was lowered to permit women to move up from clerical to professional positions in insurance, a new structural barrier has blocked access. Although women can enter professional insurance posi- tions through certification, noncertified women will not be able to move up to management and professional posts through on-thejob experience. The new skilled clerical positions that they can enter, especially if they have college degrees, became increasingly women's jobs in the 1970s as women doubled their percentage in such jobs as insurance adjusters, examiners, and investiga- tors. These are the very jobs Baran believes will be directly affected by the automation of claims procedures. A different projection was offered in an ag- gregate statistical study (Hunt and Hunt, 1985a) that argues that adjusters and investigators, like secretaries, although supported by computerized systems, interact directly with other persons as part oftheirjobs; hence, they are unlikely to be replaced by machines. As evidence, they point to the continued rapid increase of insurance adjuster jobs in 1981-1982, when much of the clerical sector stagnated or declined. Black women, who entered clerical work only in recent decades, remain primarily in the more traditional, less skilled jobs that are increasingly at risk of elimination through automation. However, although small numbers are involved, black women are overrepresented, compared with other administrative support occupations, as insurance adjusters and investiga- tors. Overall these changes in the products and the production process of the insur- ance industry have brought about changes in employment and occupational patterns. In contrast to the steady increase of employment from 1960 to 1980, from 1980 to 1982 there was a marked slowdown in growth, and, for some kinds of insurance, an absolute decline in the insurance labor force. It remains to be seen whether this slowdown is a temporary reflection of an economywide recession or a more permanent outcome of the changes in work organization. What does seem permanent is a shift in occupational structure. The number of lower- and middle-level clerical positions has declined by being automated out of existence or combined with other jobs. Examples include keypunch opera- tors, bookkeepers, and file clerks, occupations that declined by approximately 16,000 workers between 1970 and 1978 (Appelbaum, 1984: Table 2~. Skilled clerical positions are expanding, but they seem to be increasingly dead-end
44 COMPUTER CHIPS AND PAPER CLIPS jobs, with little opportunity for advancement. For example, insurance adjusters and examiners and computer operators grew by 69,000 workers between 1970 and 1978 (Appelbaum, 1984:Table 21. Some lower-level professional positions have also disappeared again through automation and the redesign of jobs while those remaining often require high-level professional credentials and managerial ability. The question of mobility between occupations in the insur- ance industry has been acutely posed by the reorganization of the work process and redefinition of jobs that have accompanied the adoption of new equipment (Appelbaum, 19841. Women still predominate in the insurance work force and are an increasing share of the professional employees; no employment crisis has emerged. Locational shifts of offices, from urban to suburban areas or to rural or different regions, a trend reported by some observers, may yet produce problems for workers unable to move, but it is too early to trace or evaluate its effects (Baran, 1985~. Furthermore, the increased emphasis on college educa- tion may further narrow opportunities for less educated black and white urban working-class women. As in several of the other industries examined here, one worker response has been to use collective bargaining as a means to make the relations between automation and the existence of jobs, and also their conditions, a contractual matter. Although it covers only some employees in a small Syracuse, New York, claims office, the November 1984 contract between the Service Employ- ees International Union (SEIU) and the Equitable Life Assurance Society of the United States is far-reaching. The contract calls for 60 days' advance notice of the introduction of "automation or equipment that will result in (a) a reduction of employees, (b) substantial changes in any employee's jobs, or (c) a change in job classification." This contract also deals with such issues as employee moni- toring by computer; provision of retraining to affected employees; and a job security provision requiring that the Syracuse office be kept open, with the bargaining unit maintained, with at least the number of employees as at the time of the signing of the agreement. (After unionization, but prior to the successful negotiation of this first contract, the company had threatened to close the of- fice.) In addition, the SEIU contract goes into great detail with regard to the use of video display terminals (VDTs). The contract calls for rest breaks, glare reduction, provision of detachable keyboards and adjustable chairs, regular eye examinations, and provision for assignment to non-VDT duties for pregnant workers who request such temporary transfer. BANK TEEEERS Banking, like insurance, pioneered in the use of computers for processing and storing information (Ernst, 19821. Banks then employing mostly men- once offered service primarily to businesses. As service to individual clients
HISTORICAL PATTERNS OF TECHNOLOGICAL CHANGE 45 increased, banking mechanized even before computers, first with mechanical calculators and later with electromechanical check-sorting equipment. Propor- tionately more women were employed in new, less skilled jobs (Strober and Arnold, 19851. Nearly fully automated check processing began with the usetof machine-readable encoding of the bank and account from which the check orig- inates, along with the encoding by the receiving bank of its code, the account, and the amount of the check. Magnetic ink character recognition (known as MICR) began in the l950s; standards for acceptable printing ink and code location and so on were adopted in 1958. By 1963,85 percent of all checks were being encoded. This development, of course, sped the adoption of computers for record-keeping for other aspects of checking accounts. Tellers were provided with computer-based equipment in the early 1960s, so data entry began at the point of the transaction. Today, with an automatic teller machine (ATM) (facilitated technologically by the microprocessor) for selected simple transactions, a consumer enters the information directly into the com- puter, and the machine provides the cash requested, accepts the deposits, or performs funds tranfers. The bank credit card, another innovative service to individual consumers, was introduced on a national scale in the late 1960s; the widely used and ac- cepted credit cards expanded consumer debt and centralized its servicing, re- placing many store charge-account systems. Through the 1970s the number of checks cleared in the United States grew at a rate of about 7 percent per year; the volume of credit card transactions increased even more rapidly (Gurwitz and Rappaport, 1984-19851. In addition to services to individual consumers, banks are also involved in the management of their own assets and in facilitating cash management by their business customers. Higher interest rates make electronic funds transfer especially important for cash management. Many businesses and other large organizations can communicate directly with banks to keep track of their assets and transfer their funds as desired. Banks now often clear their net transactions with each other electronically. The electronic transfer of funds through home computer-bank linkage is available to depositors in some large banks, but this procedure is not yet common. The banking industry has undergone changes under the impetus of forces similar to those that have affected the insurance industry: inflation, high but unstable interest rates, deregulation, and competition from other financial in- termediaries. The most striking consequence is the wide range of new products and services offered by banks and the seemingly inexhaustible demand for financial services of all kinds. As automation has proceeded, it has served to improve banks' competitive position both as it reduced unit costs and made expansion of product and service lines possible. Without these tremendous productivity gains in banking, the checking system would almost certainly have
46 COMPUTER CHIPS AND PAPER CLIPS faltered; the quality of services would have declined while their prices rose, leading to slower growth (Ernst, 1982). As it is, there is no question that tech- nology contributed to the growth in demand for the product and led to increased employment, even though many of the innovations were also labor saving. Over the 30-year period from 1950 to 1980, bank tellers were the sixth fastest growing clerical occupation. Female employment in this occupation increased 12.9 times between 1950 and 1980. Current Population Survey (CPS) data from 1972 to 1982 show bank tellers as the second fastest growing clerical occupation, with a 103 percent increase in female workers in that period. These same data, however, show an end to growth, with the number of employed bank tellers smaller in 1982 than in 1981. Between 1983 and 1984, the CPS data show no increase. (The changes made in occupational categories between 1982 and 1983 make it impossible to compare the data through 1982 with those from 1983 and subsequent years.) Overall employment in the banking industry from 1958 to 1984 grew 2.7 times, a rate that is far above that of all 105 industries in the economy (1.7 times), and even above that of the top 10 clerical-employing industries (2.2 times) (Hunt and Hunt, 1985a). These changes have brought about shifts in the types of workers needed, as well as in their numbers. The need for back-off~ce clerical workers has been reduced, while demand for highly trained sales personnel has increased. Tech- nically sophisticated sales workers will continue to be increasingly important because of increased competition among financial institutions, continuing in- troduction of new products and services, and the growth in larger, more sophis- ticated institutional customers. The teller's job is somewhere in the middle of these trends. As consumers perform the simpler transactions through ATMs, human tellers are likely to deal primarily with more sophisticated requests. Sales might provide an opportunity for upward mobility for tellers (Hirsch- horn, n.d.~. Many tellers now deal primarily with exceptional situations (certi- fied checks rather than routine deposits and withdrawals) and the sale of bank services (cash management accounts). The implications of this shift for tellers' mobility opportunities in banks are not yet clear, however, because there may be countervailing tendencies. Osterman (1984) suggests that the internal labor markets of banks, too, are changing, making career mobility within the bank more difficult. The sales job is becoming a highly skilled one, more dependent on formal training and more tolerant, even encouraging, of interbank mobility. At the same time, on-thejob training and the institution-based internal career ladder for bank tellers have tended to disappear. Nevertheless, women's partici- pation in upper-level bank jobs has increased more rapidly than their share in all management jobs. Although some of this shift may reflect job title inflation, some of it reflects increased management opportunities created in the recent rapid expansion of the retail side, affirmative action, and the increased willing- ness of employers, customers, and employees to consider women in these jobs.
HISTORICAL PA7TERNS OF TECHNOLOGICAL CHANGE 47 Even if the jobs do continue to provide internal career mobility, employment in the first place will be more difficult because entry-level jobs are likely to require more education. This may exclude less well educated women (and men), who are likely to be disproportionately minority, poor, and urban (Noyelle, 19851. A study of the introduction of an integrated data base system in the customer service department of a large New York bank (Center for Career Research and Human Resources Management, 1985) demonstrates one way that leading in- dustry institutions can offer a model for the introduction of new technology. The bank's stated policy in advance of any change was "no layoffs." The man- ner of change was planned with positive outcomes for workers reduction of stress and upgrading among its goals. There was redesigning of both the phys- ical setting of the department that enhanced the working environment and of jobs that promoted professionalization or skill upgrading of the clerical workers involved. Some clerical workers experienced upward mobility. The job rede- sign also "democratized" the office; this change was appreciated by clerks, less so by middle managers who felt that democratization reduced or leveled their status. Time will tell whether these contrasting perceptions of the outcome are reconciled. The clerical work force was reduced by 14 percent in the change- over; presumably those workers who lost their jobs moved elsewhere in the bank or left voluntarily. Growth of employment in banking is likely to slow. The advances in automa- tion have taken place primarily in the retail part of the business, the most labor- intensive sector and the sector in which banks had been the most actively solic- iting business. Regulation held interest rates down and encouraged banks to compete in other ways for retail business, by opening branches and charging low service fees (which kept the cost per transaction to the consumer artificially low). With gradual deregulation over the past five years (it is expected to con- tinue), bank branch opening declined and service charges were raised; banks now have less incentive to cater to small-scale retail trade (Gurwitz and Rappa- port, 1984-1985~. With further automation (more ATMs, point-of-sale termi- nals, and home banking) likely to eliminate much ofthe paper that has until now been generated and processed (even though processed electronically for the most part), labor needs in retail banking will probably decline. The assets of banks also are now growing more slowly and erratically, especially relative to their high and steady growth prior to 1978. Thus, in banking, both future growth patterns and employment levels are uncertain, but employment growth on the retail side is very likely to slow. In summary, increases in women's employment as bank tellers accompanied preautomation business and organizational changes. During the recent rapid growth of the banking industry, women's employment increased as automation contributed to growth of demand for new products and services. Women's move into bank management occurred in the same period. Recently, however,
48 COMPUTER CHIPS AND PAPER CLIPS employment growth has slowed. Continued reorganization has changed condi- tions for entry-level positions and internal mobility, with the potential of clos- ing off opportunities for less educated women. Future changes in the pattern of demand, in the organization of work, and in automation are likely, and those changes will continue to affect employment. RETAIL CLERKS The retail industry in the United States has undergone striking changes in the twentieth century. A continuing process of technological change, much of it outside retailing itself, coupled with general social, cultural, and economic change, has transfo~ed retailing from an industry dominated by single-propri- etor neighborhood stores serving highly localized markets to one dominated by national chains and holding companies, most of whose member stores serve broad regional markets. Some of the changes outside of retailing that have been important in this transformation include the development of nationally recog- nized brands and standardized packaging by manufacturers (which began in the late nineteenth century); advances in freight transportation, which improved distribution of national brands to local outlets; the development of suburbs and automobiles, which made regional shopping centers possible; advances in gen- eral office procedures, including record-keeping and billing; the development of new forms of consumer credit, which increased the ease and amount of consumer credit; and new media (radio, movies, television), which promoted mass consumption as well as advertising messages for specific products. Re- tailing, which is directly dependent on consumer needs and preferences, has generally responded rapidly to these changes and initiated innovations of its own. Among the most prominent changes since World War II has been the devel- opment of chain, discount department stores, such as K-Mart. From a handful of such stores in the l950s, the number grew to 1,300 in 1960 and to almost 7,400 by 1977. During the same period, chain department stores, such as Sears, Roebuck and Company and J. C. Penney, also expanded rapidly, and holding companies, such as Federated Stores, expanded their holdings to include prom- inent specialty stores as well as locally distinctive department stores. Chain and discount stores now handle 89 percent of the department store trade; depart- ment stores in general have about 80 percent of the general merchandise mar- ket. Concentration in this industry continued to increase even after the period of rapid expansion of the chains: between 1967 and 1977 the top 32 firms in- creased their market share from 75 to 87.5 percent of all sales, and within this group the top five increased their share from 49.8 percent to more than 60 percent (Bluestone et al., 1981:481. The most rapidly growing sector of the industry, however, is discount chain stores. And since the energy crisis of the 1970s, mail-order catalog sales have also increased dramatically.
HISTORICAL PATTERNS OF TECHNOLOGICAL CHANGE 49 In other sectors of retail trade, such as hotels, restaurants, and grocery stores, the trends are similar to those in general merchandise retailing: increasing scale through chain operations, more reliance on recognition of national "brand" names (Safeway, Howard Johnson's, McDonald's, Hilton, Sheraton), greater use of advertising, and increased use of automated equipment. For example, the 20 largest supermarket chains (those with more than 100 stores) increased their share of the grocery store market from 27 percent in 1948 to 41 percent in 1977. The introduction of scanning technology in supermarkets (uniform prod- uct codes read by scanners at the cash register) was increasing at a rate of about 10 percept ofall stores per year, meaning that its introduction would be virtually complete by the end of the 1980s. Cash register scanning eliminates marking prices or price changes on products. Data recorded in the process are used to control inventory, automatically reorder products, schedule workers' hours, and allocate shelf space. The new machines also reduce checkout time (Burns 1982). The retail industry as a whole is highly competitive; consumer income is limited, and most areas of retail trade are not expected to grow more rapidly than disposable income, although some sectors can experience high growth rates by capturing changing preferences. Even when there is market saturation, a "new concept" in retailing can capture business from competitors. For exam- ple, a declining part of the average family budget is spent on groceries, but an increasing part is spent on eating out, and within the grocery sector, market share can be captured by the super supermarket with its vastly expanded offer- ings including prepared, ready-to-eat food, and the warehouse store with its curtailed product selection and lower prices. Interestingly, both the super store and the warehouse store in the grocery trade employ fewer workers per dollar unit of sales than the standard supermarket, and the standard supermarket is losing market share to the newer forms (Burns, 1982~. A recent study of changes in the department store part of the retail market suggests that computer-based technological change has been essential to the growth of multiple-store chains (Bluestone et al., 1981~. Computer-based in- ventory control, ordering, and warehousing, as well as the product scanning codes and intelligent cash registers, created economies of scale that made ex- pansion possible. Without automation, the amount of record-keeping required to operate at such scale would probably have been prohibitive. Mass media advertising, another technique that benefits from economies of scale, has also facilitated the growth of chains and added to their relative advantages over independent stores. Indeed, Bluestone and his colleagues (1981) argue that advertising has allowed retailers to reduce the numbers of higher skilled sales workers and substitute less skilled and lower-paid sales help. The salesperson no longer needs to sell the product; that has been achieved by advertising. The distribution of occupations in retailing between 1950 and 1980 docu- ments the shift toward less skilled cashier jobs. In 1950, 4.3 percent of all jobs
50 COMPUTER CHIPS AND PAPER CLIPS were in retail trade (excluding cashiers), and cashiers constituted another 0.4 percent of all jobs. Between 1950 and 1970, the labor force in retail trade grew from 2.5 million to 2.9 million, representing an annual growth rate of less than 1 percent; between 1970 and 1980, the growth rate for the entire decade was just over 1 percent (Bureau of the Census, 1964:Table 201, and 1984b:Table 221~. Overall, employment in retail trade grew more slowly than total employ- ment. ~ The number of cashiers, on the other hand, more than doubled between 1950 and 1960, and has continued to grow rapidly since: between 1960 and 1970 their number increased by 73.4 percent, and between 1970 and 1980 by 87.0 percent. By 1980 cashiers constituted 1.8 percent of the total labor force and 34 percent of all retail trade employees (Bureau of the Census, 1984b: Table 221~. The shift toward the use of cashiers strongly favored female employment. Cashier was a predominantly female job already in 1950, and over the subse- quent three decades it increased from 76.5 to 83.0 percent female. Thus, most of the new cashier jobs (approximately 1.2 million) went to women.2 While other retail jobs grew more slowly than that of cashier, new employment oppor- tunities again favored women; the proportion of those jobs held by women grew from 48.9 percent in 1950 to 58.7 percent in 1980 (Bureau of the Census, 1964:Table 201, and 1984b:Table 221~. However, sales of higher-priced items, generally accompanied by higher pay, continued to be male-dominated in 1980. Men claimed a disproportionate share of sales jobs in motor vehicles and boats, furniture, radio, TV, hi-fi equipment, and appliances, while women heavily dominated the counter clerk and apparel sales jobs (Bureau of the Cen- sus, 1984b:Table 2211. While the shifting composition and content of retail jobs have been accompa- nied by expanding job opportunities for women, the quality of those jobs has deteriorated in several respects. Salespersons are playing a less central role than previously, even in the higher-priced stores that provide relatively more cus- tomer service, such as Bloomingdale's. Commission sales are rapidly disap- pearing, and standard hourly wages only slightly above the minimum wage are becoming the norm. Along with the use of less skilled sales workers, part-time employment has increased: when it is no longer necessary to have skilled sales workers who know the products, scheduling part-time workers to meet daily and weekly fluctuations in demand and to reduce costs becomes possible. Because occupational classifications changed between census years, comparisons across the entire period are difficult to make. However, comparisons between adjacent census years (1950- 1960; 1960-1970; 1970-1980) are generally possible. There was a major change in classification in the 1980 census. The 1970 and 1980 data compared here use like categories but cannot accurately be compared with previous years. 2To compare cashier jobs across census years, data were taken from Hunt and Hunt (1985a), who adjusted census data for purposes of consistency.
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-
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
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
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
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
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
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
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.
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
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-
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.