Dr Juliet Webster
Uninspired by her teachers, Dr Juliet Webster left school to take a secretarial course. She also signed up for A’level sociology — a subject not then on the school curriculum.
It was the beginning of a lengthy and prolific academic career studying the gender dynamics of job automation, digital labour, and how employment has evolved since technology began to appear in the workplace.
“What drew me in was the sociology of industrial relations and the Marxist theory of capital,” she says. “I was really interested in the lessons for the twentieth century from the early introduction of machinery.”
Topics she has examined in her many academic papers include virtual work, the gig economy, equal pay, people skills and social sustainability. She is particularly interested in how technology has impacted women’s lives.
Juliet’s career has also spanned practical action in NGOs, and policy making, including for the European Commission Directorate General for Employment. She currently has her own consultancy in London,Work & Equality Research, and is Adviser for the Gender and ICT Programme, IN3, at the Open University of Catalonia.
Juliet does not discourage young women from careers in technologies such as computer science. But she is concerned about the current trend towards flexible working, which includes an increase in short-term contracts, content farming and offshoring. “These practices blur the boundaries between work and home life, and can erode pay and conditions,” she says.