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The Caring Economy

by Gerry McGovern
Author, New Thinking

"Women now make up more than 40 percent of the work force in every G-8 country except Italy," Rana Dogar wrote in a recent special report for Newsweek entitled 'It's a Woman's World.' "At the same time, the developed world is shifting from manufacturing industries fuelled by fossilised carbons to knowledge and information industries -- computers, telecoms, health care and financial service -- driven by silicon chips. These two mutually reinforcing trends are transforming not just the workplace but some fundamental aspects of the way we live."

The Digital Age delivers an interesting dichotomy. One the one hand it promises to get us out of brain-dead factories, out of clogged cities, and into the countryside. On the other hand it offers life in the fast chip, viewed through a computer screen; life without the human touch.

For the last twenty years or so industry has sung a mantra: 'Automate. Reduce humans, reduce costs.' Slowly, a cold dawn has risen. Something is missing: the human touch.

Business is realising that if you completely automate human interaction, you lose completely any basis for customer loyalty. Business is realising that human relationships are an important contributor to profit and long-term stability. That's why a country such as Ireland is attracting a lot of international telesales and telesupport operations at the moment. You see, the Irish are good at talking. We sound like we care. People tend to call back when you sound like you care.

The central economy is the economy of child rearing and women have never gained recognition, respect nor pay for that. In the Digital Age, talking, caring, supporting, helping, teaching, are central cogs in the wheel of the global economy. Women are good at these things.

Thus, in Germany, France, Britain, women are getting more and more of the new jobs. In the European Union, Newsweek reported that 110 women have college degrees for every 100 men who do. It's estimated that half of the 'knowledge worker' jobs created in the United States in the last ten years have gone to women, with the number of women-owned businesses increasing by 78 percent between 1987 and 1996.

Women are embracing the Internet. In the United States women Internet users have moved from 23 percent in 1995 to 46 percent in 1998. More and more women are coming online in Germany, Russia, Brazil, and Southeast Asia, with the exception of Japan. (But then, Japan is having its problems dealing with the new economy) Research estimates that by 2005 women will comprise 60 percent of the online marketplace. A 1997 study showed that 23 percent of women entrepreneurs had websites, compared to 16 percent for their male counterparts.

Carolyn Leighton, executive director of Women In Technology International, attributes much of the success to the anonymity offered by the Internet, "The Internet is a great levelling device," she says. It's not all rosy by any means. The boardrooms and corridors of power still smell strongly of aftershave. Boys get bought more technology toys and girls aren't using computers as much as they should at school."

It's still a man's world, though it's fast becoming a woman's economy.

� Gerry McGovern, New Thinking. All rights reserved.

Gerry McGovern is the author of New Thinking, a weekly column which has received numerous accolades and a book, THE CARING ECONOMY

The Caring Economy
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The Caring Economy, by Gerry McGovern, is published by Blackhall Publishing of 26 Eustace Street, Dublin 2, Ireland. ISBN 1-901657-61-2 Price _27.50 or US$35.95
Email: [email protected]

It is also available in the United States from Irish Books & Media, 1433 East Franklin Avenue, MN, USA 55404-2135. Call toll-free: 1-800-229-3505.

Email Gerry McGovern at [email protected]
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