23 Nov 2021


Hybrid seminar and lecture by Prof. Al James. Platforming women, work and family in the gig economy. University of Cambridge.
Organizers: Ignacia Arteaga, Debangana Bose, Katarzyna Cieslik, Juan Del Nido

Over 64 million women worldwide find gig work through digital labour platforms, with many motivated by widely touted ‘emancipatory’ platform possibilities for reconciling paid work and family. Yet women remain largely invisible within the expansive digital labour research agenda. This lecture presents new data from recent interviews with 80 women in the UK using a range of popular remote crowdwork platforms (including PeoplePerHour, UpWork, TaskRabbit, Freelancer) to access desk-based, white-collar gig work from home. The paper makes three original contributions. First, it widens the analytical focus of the digital labour research agenda to recognise the role of workers’ gender identities and uneven household gender divisions of childcare and domestic labour in shaping the operation and outcomes of digital labour platforms. Second, the analysis identifies significant gendered constraints on women’s abilities to compete for gig work online in ways that remain ‘hidden in the cloud’. Third, it explores some of the coping individual tactics and collective strategies that women gig workers have developed to reduce work-family conflicts and improve their working conditions in the absence of meaningful platform support structures.

Al James is Professor of Economic Geography at Newcastle University with research interests in: labour, gendered work-lives, social reproduction, digital work futures, inclusive economies, and cultural economy. His recent book ‘Work-Life Advantage’ was published in the RGS-IBG book series (2018) and explores the benefits that accrue to employers and workers from family-friendly working provision. Al received his BA in Geography (1999) and PhD in Economic Geography (2003) from the University of Cambridge, and has held lectureships at Cambridge and Queen Mary, University of London. His work has been funded by the UK’s Economic and Social Research Council, Nuffield Foundation, British Academy and Arts and Humanities Research Council. https://geoworklives.com/

Social Science Research for the 21st Century - Progress through Partnership

Email: philomathia@admin.cam.ac.uk