Designing Women: Corporate Discipline and Barbados's Off-Shore Pink-Collar Sector

Essay Excerpt

The bright yellow awning-shaded tables of Chefette are crowded with young Bajan women animated in their lunchtime conversation; their colorful and fashionable dress turns the heads of passersby. Within moments, the fast-food tables empty, and the high-heeled workers of Data Air' escape the midday Caribbean sun, hurrying back to the air-conditioned hum of the "open office." These women represent vast changes in labor patterns and technology in the international arena. Their lives have suddenly become intertwined with service workers in such disparate places as Ireland, the Dominican Republic, Jamaica, Mauritius, and the United States, as the information age signals the virtual collapse of national boundaries and as labor and capital become increasingly internationalized. On the data-entry floor of this off-shore information processing facility, more than 100 women sit at clustered computer stations, entering data from some 300,000 ticket stubs from one airline's 2,000 daily flights. One floor below, an equal number of women work as "approvers," entering data from medical claims sent for processing by one of the largest insurance companies in the United States. This expanding company alone hires close to 1,000 Barbadian workers-almost all of whom are young women. Their fingers fly and the frenetic clicking of keys fills a vast and chilly room as walkman-clad women work eight-hour shifts at video display terminals-constantly monitored for productivity and accuracy-typing to the latest dub, calypso, or easy-listening station. The muffled clatter of keys creates a sort of white noise, and the green glow of a sea of computer screens lends a sort of Orwellian aura to the tropical setting outside (169).

Freeman, C. "Designing Women: Corporate Discipline and Barbados's Off-Shore Pink-Collar Sector." Cultural Anthropology 8.2(1993): 169–186.

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