Gray M, James A, 2007, "Connecting gender and economic competitiveness: lessons from Cambridge’s high-tech regional economy" Environment and Planning A 39(2) 417 – 436
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Connecting gender and economic competitiveness: lessons from Cambridge’s high-tech regional economy
Mia Gray, Al James
Received 12 November 2004; in revised form 27 August 2005
Abstract. Although recognition of the significance of gender divisions continues to transform economic geography, the discipline nevertheless remains highly uneven in its degree of engagement with gender as a legitimate focus of analysis. In particular, although social institutions are now widely regarded as key determinants of economic success, the regional learning and innovation literature remains largely gender blind, simultaneously subordinating the female worker voice and making invisible distinctively gendered patterns of work in the face of an increasingly feminised labour force. Focusing on the industrial agglomeration of information and communication technology firms in Cambridge, England, we first outline the nature of the inequalities in patterns of work and social interaction among female versus male employees within Cambridge’s high-tech regional economy. Second, we demonstrate how these inequalities in turn constrain female employees’ abilities to contribute to key processes widely theorised to underpin firms’ innovative capacities and economic competitiveness. Specifically, these self-identified constraints centre on female workers’ abilities to: (a) act as agents of information and knowledge diffusion between firms; and (b) use new information and knowledge once they enter the firm. Overall, our results suggest that gender issues of social equity at the level of the individual worker need to be explicitly integrated with issues of economic competitiveness at the levels of the firm and the region. This is a case not simply of female employees being socially excluded at work, but of their simultaneous exclusion from key elements of firms’ productive processes.
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