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WOMEN IN IRELAND’S INFORMATION INDUSTRY: VOICES FROM INSIDE EILEEN M. TRAUTH during the past three decades Ireland has been undergoing signiWcant change. In the economic realm, makers of industrial policy have attempted to move the economy away from dependence upon agriculture and toward the development of new, growth industries identiWed as chemicals, pharmaceuticals, and information technology.1 The information technology industry—the focus of this article—consists of Wrms engaged in the manufacture of computer and telecommunications equipment, the development of computer software and information systems, and the provision of computer-related services. Because such highly industrialized countries as the United States were far ahead of Ireland in this industry, Irish policy-makers adopted a outward-looking strategy to help the country catch up. Beginning in the early 1970s the Industrial Development Authority began to invite multinational information technology companies to Ireland. Generous Wnancial incentives were oVered to attract these companies , especially to regions in the West. Two types of beneWts were expected to result from this strategy. The Wrst expected beneWt would be immediate . The Irish economy would improve as the unemployment and emigration rates declined through this infusion of new jobs. The second beneWt would be longer term. By working in these foreign Wrms, it was believed that Irish information technology workers would develop the business knowledge and technical expertise needed to establish their own Irish Wrms. WOMEN IN IRELAND’S INFORMATION INDUSTRY 133 1 Earlier versions of this article were presented at the Boston Irish Colloquium (November , 1993) and at the annual meeting of the American Conference for Irish Studies in Omaha, Nebraska (April, 1994), and the research was supported, in part, by a Fulbright Fellowship . It should be noted that the information technology industry in Ireland was originally referred to as the electronics industry. In this paper the two terms are synonymous. The eYcacy of this plan is not the focus of this article. This has been the subject of numerous critiques of Ireland’s industrial policy.2 Rather, the purpose of this article is to consider the Wt between this industrial policy and aspects of Irish society. In particular, this article is concerned with the position of women within this new industry—in terms of both present reality and of future opportunity. The method used to explore the position of women was to solicit the thoughts and feelings of those women actually working in the information technology industry. During in-depth interviews they talked about this new type of employment, about how it Wts in with the Irish culture, and about the eVect of doing this type of work on their personal and family lives. Those who work at multinational Wrms also discussed foreign inXuences on Irish culture and on their lives. This research oVers, thus, an inside look at the eVect of Ireland’s emerging information technology industry on Irish women today. A total of twenty-Wve women were interviewed.3 During interviews lasting a minimum of one and one-half hours, each woman provided information about her family, education, social class, and employment background in order to provide some context for interpreting her comments. Permission to tape the discussion was granted in sixty percent of the cases. The discussion about the position of women in Ireland centered around ways in which women are being aVected by working in the information sector and ways in which Irish culture enhances or inhibits a woman’s opportunities in this Weld. The topics discussed in the interviews are the following : the position of women in Ireland in general; comparison between the position of women at multinational versus Irish Wrms; comparison between the position of women in the information sector versus other employment sectors; the eVect of multinational Wrms on the position of women in Ireland in general; the eVect of multinational Wrms on attitudes about women in the labor force; changes in females’ career options because of the presence of the information technology industry; and diVerences between America and Ireland with respect to attitudes about and the WOMEN IN IRELAND’S INFORMATION INDUSTRY 134 2 See, for example, Industrial Policy Review Group, A Time for Change: Industrial Policy for the 1990s (Dublin: Ministry for Industry and...

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Additional Information

ISSN
1550-5162
Print ISSN
0013-2683
Pages
pp. 133-150
Launched on MUSE
2017-08-31
Open Access
No
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