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Work-life Advantage, Book Launch, Regional Studies Lugano June 2018. Work–Life Advantage analyses how employer–provision of ‘family–friendly’ working arrangements – designed to help workers better reconcile work, home and family – can also enhance firms’ capacities for learning and innovation, in pursuit of long–term competitive advantage and socially inclusive growth.

Brings together major debates in labour geography, feminist geography, and regional learning in novel ways, through a focus on the shifting boundaries between work, home, and family

Addresses a major gap in the scholarly research surrounding the narrow ‘business case’ for work–life balance by developing a more socially progressive, workerist ‘dual agenda’

Challenges and disrupts masculinist assumptions of the “ideal worker” and the associated labour market marginalization of workers with significant home and family commitments

Based on 10 years of research with over 300 IT workers and 150 IT firms in the UK and Ireland, with important insights for professional workers and knowledge–intensive companies around the world

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  1. 1. Gender Inclusive Regional Studies Al James @Re_AlJames Regional Studies Association Conference Lugano, Switzerland, 5 June 2018
  2. 2. Gender Inclusive Regional Studies Brings regional learning and innovation agenda into new conversation with labour geography Documents everyday struggles of high tech professionals to combine work, home and family. Demonstrates how employer–provided ′family friendly′ working arrangements can also enhance firms′ capacities for learning and innovation. Exposes masculinist myopia of regional learning and innovation agenda and attendant theories of regional advantage. 150 firms (employing 8000), 300 IT workers, 10 years of research, UK & Ireland
  3. 3. Entry 1: Demystifying the Geographical Foundations of Regional Advantage  Widely accepted: fundamental changes within advanced economies 1970s- herald new era of capitalist economic development  Geography of this new order marked by ‘re- emergence of regional economies’ as salient foci of wealth creation.  Multiple labels: industrial districts, new industrial spaces, territorial production complexes, regional innovation milieux, learning regions, clusters  A geographical research obsession! – 3+ decades of work to explain regional (dis)advantage  From transaction costs reductions to socio- cultural analyses: careers made, an expansive research literature, a cornerstone of regional studies, multiple generations of PhD students!
  4. 4. Demystifying Regional Advantage: Major RQs, Successive Refinements  Why do some regional economies perform better than others?  Mechanisms through which learning and innovation are enhanced through spatial proximity?  How are clusters inserted into knowledge spillovers at different spatial scales?  Constraints on learning, and innovation and growth amongst knowledge intensive firms in industrial clusters? Moving beyond earlier distinctions between tacit and codified knowledge:  analytical (science-based), symbolic (arts-based) versus synthetic (engineering-based) knowledges  ‘component’ vs. ‘architectural’ knowledges  ‘know-what’, ‘know-why’, ‘know-how’, ‘know-who’  multi-scalar boundaries of innovation systems / ‘deterritorialisation of closeness’  Phew…
  5. 5. ‘Neither of the NEGs [New Economic Geographies] pays any attention to questions in the immediate sense of the social division of labour between different kinds of paid work and between paid work and caring, or the wider sense of establishing sustainable regional development. Yet these dimensions are central to understanding the well- being of people within regions and therefore to regional or spatial development as a whole’ (Perrons 2001: 211). ‘Holistic regional development’ agenda (Pike et al. 2006 2007): integrates economic concerns around competitiveness, growth and productivity with normative questions around workers’ quality of life, gender equality, well-being and social reproduction (see also Rees 2000; Morgan 2004; Blake and Hanson 2005) Calls to Recenter the Regional Learning and Innovation Agenda
  6. 6. (Re)Theorising (Masculinist) Regional Advantage Three analytical myopias (James, 2018) 1.Labour / ‘human capital’ factor input to production (cf. workers’ experiences being used as labour?) 2.Theoretical invisibility of female worker agency 3.Abstraction of knowledge production from social reproduction (role of family and care in shaping regional learning dynamics?) Strong legacy in earlier studies (e.g. Saxenian’s (1994) romanticised ‘Silicon Cowboys’ (11k citations & counting) Cf. increasing numbers of female high tech professionals Gendering regional advantage: Massey (1995) on high tech monasteries, Benner (2003) on female-dedicated cross-firm learning infrastructures, Gray and James (2007, 2008) on constrained female agency in high tech. But ltd engagements with expansive work-life agenda (responds to same post-Fordist economic transition)
  7. 7. Lazzeretti, L., Sedita, S.R. and Caloffi, A. 2013. Founders and disseminators of cluster research. Journal of Economic Geography. Bibliometric analysis of 1586 journal articles on clusters / industrial districts published from 1989 to 2010 in 250 international scientific journals) Also note lack of female scholars in this list…
  8. 8. Entry 2: Gendered Work-Life Conflict (or, when the Silicon Cowboys and Cowgirls hang up their spurs) TRIPLE WHAMMY: 1. Working longer, harder, less predictable schedules 2. Increased female labourforce; more dual earner & lone-parent households; complex household lives 3. Neoliberal attack on social provisioning – transfer care down to ‘natural’ level of home (Bakker and Gill 2003) - women typically assume majority burden  Complex, multi-variable juggling act: workers have finite time and energy Work Foundation (Cowling 2005): Ireland and UK have the longest ave work hrs of all EU members states
  9. 9. Evidencing the Profound Social & Economic Importance of WLB Lack of WLB: increased stress, negative effects on psychological and physical well-being, increased family and marital tensions (multiple studies) Emerging evidence Ireland: ‘quarter life crisis’ (?) Unions: WLB to improve workers’ quality of life & combat increasing work pressures that are destabilising households BUT: employers remain sceptical of ‘business case’ Ongoing govt refusal in firms’ right to manage Limited evidence base: how employer provided WLB provision can enhance firm performance Also: no analysis of impacts of WLB provision on firms’ innovative capacities (long term sustainable advantage); firms atomised from regional industrial systems
  10. 10. Policy Type Description Examples Flexible Work Arrangements Policies designed to give workers greater ‘flexibility’ in the scheduling and location of work hours while not decreasing average work hours per week Flextime (flexible beginning or end work time, sometimes with core hours) Flexplace / Telecommuting (all or part of the week occurs at home) Job sharing (one job undertaken by 2 or more persons) Annualised hours Reduced Work Hours Policies designed to reduce workers’ hours Part-time work Compressed work weeks (employees compact total working hours into 4 days rather than 5) Term-time working Practical Help with Child Care Policies designed to provide ‘workplace social support’ for parents Employer-subsidised childcare – in-site Employer-subsidised childcare – off-site Information service for childcare Workplace parent support group Breast-feeding facilities Personal Leave Policies and benefits that give leave to provide time for personal commitments & family caregiving Extra-statutory maternity leave Extra-statutory paternity leave Adoption leave Unpaid leave during school holidays Guaranteed Christmas leave Use of own sick leave to care for sick children Leave for caring for elder relatives Emergency leave Study leave Sports achievement leave Employer Provided WLB (vs. Scepticism)
  11. 11. RQs, Methodology, Evidence Base 1. Gendering of everyday work-life conflict & workers’ preferred WLB support in high tech regional economies? 2. How do WL conflict and uneven WLB provision by employers shape worker mobility and hence interfirm embodied knowledge transfers within and between firms? 3. Conditioning role of regional and national institutional and regulatory frameworks? Dublin and Cambridge IT regional case studies (EU ‘blueprint’ regions) + longest EU work hours (national) 65 in-depth interviews (working parents, HR managers, unions, industry watchers) Online employer survey: 150 firms (8068 workers, 20% female workforce): WLB provision & performance Online IT worker survey: 162 workers (WLB & mobility) (only 9 men! hard to convince WLB goes beyond women) Policy engagement: UK: TUC, Amicus, GirlGeeks, WIT Ireland: ICTU, SIPTU, Irish Equality Authority, WITS
  12. 12.  Major causes of work-life conflict Highly variable workloads over devt cycle Need for rapid response to client crises International work teams in multiple time zones Maintaining skill sets in dynamic IT sector  Everyday experiences of work life conflict interrupted sleep patterns stress and exhaustion regular evening and weekend working relationships with partner / children suffer working (at home) when feeling unwell missing out on leisure / hobbies checking email in hospital close to child birth  Particular pressures on women with children: identity of ‘a good mother’ invokes an everyday presence and involvement in childrearing absent from dominant societal expectations ‘a good father’ (see Hardhill and van Loon 2006) ‘Agents of Innovation’? Cf. Everyday Work-Life Conflicts (Highly Gendered) “If you just try and deal with it, you’ll just muddle through, same as you always have. But, the only way I could make a decision for us as a family was to play it forward 20 yrs. OK, there would be more money in the bank, that’s if we’re still talking to each other, if the kids haven’t gone off the rails because we haven’t had time to sit down and talk anymore...” Female Business Devt Manager, now on 3 day work week, Dublin
  13. 13. Atomised ‘Agents of Innovation’??? ‘The active units behind the formation of new knowledge are ‘epistemic communities’, simply defined as groups of knowledge-driven agents linked together by a common goal, a common cognitive framework and a shared understanding of their work’ (Cohendet et al. 2014: 930). ‘Agglomeration does not ensure learning or determine its content. [Rather] the use and development of information in such a way that technological learning takes place has to do with the qualitative behaviours of agents in a network’ (Storper 1997: 135). ‘I’m the CEO of [IT company] and I’m also the mum of two kids… Pretty much the stress comes from wanting to be successful at work, and also wanting to be successful as a mother, or wanting to be successful at a hobby, or wanting to do a lot of different things and having the conflict’. Chief Executive Officer, female, IT start-up, UK SE region. ‘I was working for [large IT firm], and in my last year I had my son. I had 300 people working for me: you think to yourself “I eat nails for breakfast, I’m gonna have a child and I’ll be right back in there, grrrr,”. And the reality is, it’s not that way, because all of a sudden you have something that you actually care more deeply about than your job’. CEO, female, 2 children, MNC, UK SE region.
  14. 14. Diverse Worker Preferences Vs. Uneven and Ltd Employer Provided Support Category Arrangement Dublin (N=74) % Cambridge (N=76) % Flexible Work Arrangements Flextime Flexplace (work from home 1 or 2 days a week) Flexplace (work from home 3 or 4 days a week) Job sharing (one job undertaken by 2 or more persons) Annualised hours 73 74 35 9 8 61 58 53 4 11 Reduced Work Hours Part-time work Compressed work weeks (4 days work in 5) Term-time working 49 31 8 59 29 9 Personal Leave Extra-statutory maternity leave Extra-statutory paternity leave Career break / sabbatical 32 14 19 12 9 7 Practical Help with Child Care Employer-subsidised childcare Information referral service for childcare Workplace nursery 4 4 3 8 3 1 Other WLB counselling / training 15 4
  15. 15. WLB - Routine Learning Benefits Employer Survey Perceived impacts of WLB provision on organisational performance (2004-7) (N=142)  Improved workplace envt for creativity and learning: 54%  Increased worker productivity: 61%  Improved company image to potential recruits: 63%  Increased retention of women post maternity leave: 52%  Increased workforce diversity: 44%  Increased female recruitment: 36% Consistency with multiple metrics of firm performance over same timeframe In-depth Interviews Workers & Managers Three key mechanisms through which uptake of worker preferred WLB arrangements benefits routine learning:  Worker self-determination and increased engagement  Reduced stress and improved quality of team communication  Enhanced capacity for comprehensive problem solving  Work team diversity  Diversity of external networks
  16. 16. Uneven Employer WLB Provision: Impacts on Labour Mobility (worker survey) Differential WLB provision shapes workers’ inter-firm job-to-job mobility preferences (often with pay cut) Worker survey evidence (N=122):  Ave tenure: 3.5 yrs (excl 19% non- movers)  WLB provision not useful previous firm: 41%  PUSH: poor WLB in previous firm as important reason for leaving: 33% (39% for working mothers)  PULL: better WLB provision in current firm as important reason for moving: 65% (76% for working mothers)  Interviews: key role of managerial non-ratification of WLB take-up (push) “I rejected a job offer from a company closer to home because they were not open to the idea of working from home or even starting 30 minutes later than others (to sync my commute with my wife)!” Male Software Engineer, Dublin “The previous company I had a very tough time and that’s the main reason for me to look elsewhere. So one of my children has a health problem, and I’m receiving on the other side pressure from my boss: ‘when are you coming back to work? Enough of your rest’. That’s what I’m hearing, but I’m not resting there I’m struggling with my kid you know?” IT Specialist, mother of young twins, Cambridge
  17. 17. Unpacking Labour Churning, Cross-Firm Job-To-Job Mobility & Knowledge Transfer  ‘One of the most important sources of knowledge flows is the knowledge embodied in highly qualified personnel which flows directly from research institutes to private firms in the form of graduates and also moves between firms in the form of mobile labour… the recombining of talent in new constellations through labour mobility is […] one of the most important sources of innovation in dynamic clusters’. (Wolfe and Gertler 2004: 1076)  Well rehearsed set of arguments, however…
  18. 18. Knowledge Spillovers & Spatial Advantage: (Beyond) The Regional Learning Boys’ Club?  Majority insights from male / genderless ‘labour mobility’:  Henry and Pinch (2000) Oxford’s Motorsport Valley: cross-firm labour churning of designers, managers, engineers every 3.7 yrs, 8 moves per career, 100 career biographies all male  Almeida and Kogut (1999): track US regional variations in knowledge spillovers in the semiconductor industry via 483 patent holders, 473 male, only 10 ‘star engineers’ female  Power and Lundmark (2004): track mobility of 1.1 million ICT professionals in Kista science park Sweden (29% female) – impressive time-series database lumped together as genderless mass  Other gender-blind examples: Keeble et al. (1999); Fallick et al. (2005); Lawton-Smith and Waters (2005); Agrawal et al. (2006); and Breschi and Lissoni (2009).  Instrumental, dehumanised language of ‘labour market externalities’; or else of ‘mobile labour’ / ‘knowledge carriers’ / ‘human capital stocks’ / even ‘mobile brains’ as apparently disembodied factor inputs to knowledge production
  19. 19. Gendered work-life conflict, WLB and constrained job-to-job interfirm mobility  Question assumption: interfirm job-to-job mobility always and everywhere ‘good’  Disruptive effects on family support networks, established school runs, etc – i.e. complex temporal and spatial coordination of caring activities (urban carescapes)  Interviews: female (and some male) IT workers who stay put as a function of WLB considerations  Dominant atomistic conceptions of self-motivated, ideal worker inter-firm job hopping in regional learning literature also ignore:  Trailing spouse syndrome  Devaluation of female embodied knowledge through compromise jobs in other sectors chosen not for individual utility but family utility (Folbre 1994)  Myriad of ‘glass ceiling’ structures that further undermine female worker mobility (extensive occupational mobility literature)
  20. 20. Uneven Regional Geographies of Work-Life Advantage Overall: Dublin workers having a harder time: 46% Dub IT workers unsatisfied with current WLB (c.f. 30% Cam IT workers) Interviews highlight Dublin urban sprawl (Celtic Tiger, house price growth, longer commutes): 19% of Dublin workers surveyed commute 3 or more hours per day (c.f. 7% of Cambridge workers) Differences in gendered welfare regime:  NO statutory provision for paternity leave in Ireland  NO legal right to work PT in Ireland (employer discretion)  Statutory maternity leave lower in Ireland c.f. UK  Ireland’s higher costs of childcare in relation to average incomes i.e. ‘employer provided extra-statutory maternity / paternity leave’ has a different meaning in Dublin c.f. Cambridge (Im)mobility effect? e.g. 57% Dublin IT employers report increased female retention post-maternity leave as a function of their WLB provision 2004-7 (c.f. 42% Cambridge)
  21. 21. Concluding Comments  Book opens up unexplored dimensions of high tech regional economies (labour, gender, family)  How workers’ embeddedness in gendered, reproductive networks of family, care and community shapes their (non)participation in routine learning and innovation activities of knowledge production  Employer provided WLB arrangements important (yet under-researched) element of firms’ institutionalised learning envts  CORE TENSION: worker mobility so widely celebrated in regional learning and innovation literature (and policy) as underpinning regional competitiveness also premised on:  Gendered dissatisfaction with work-life conflict, unequal division of household labour, uneven & often inadequate employer WLB provision, concerns beyond ‘the economic’ around care & improved quality of life.  Gender exclusions in regional studies yielding partial, undersocialised regional learning characatures… & dessicated regional development policy  Engendering regional studies - need to reright the boat!!
  22. 22. ′Who thought the topic of work–life balance could be so interesting? Al James makes it riveting. His sometimes– poignant, sometimes heart–rending, sometimes outrageous (how can they get away with that?) stories of the collision of work–lives and every–day lives of high– tech workers in Dublin and Cambridge make for utterly compelling reading′ Professor Trevor Barnes, UBC. ′The changing nature of employment, the growing diversity of the workforce and the implications for individuals and households are the questions of our time. In this fascinating book, feminist and regional economics meet head–on as James provides insights into the implications of the growth of ′′knowledge work" for firms and for families.′ Prof Linda McDowell, Oxford.