Northwestern Events Calendar


CANCELLED Techno-Ladies: Gendered Labor and The Technologized Workplace in 1980s Japan (Diane Wei Lewis)


When: Friday, January 7, 2022
12:00 PM - 1:30 PM Central

Where: Kresge Hall, 1515, 1880 Campus Drive, Evanston, IL 60208 map it

Audience: Faculty/Staff - Student - Public - Post Docs/Docs - Graduate Students

Contact: Peter Carroll   (847) 491-2753

Group: East Asia Research Forum

Category: Academic


In the early 1980s, office automation (OA) swept the Japanese business world. A variety of new data processing and telecommunications technologies—fax machines, electronic filing systems, microcomputers, word processors, and local area networks—infiltrated the workplace and home. These technologies seemed likely to transform women’s employment, for OA was expected to reduce clerical drudgework and therefore potentially eliminate the need for “office ladies” or OL. However, facing critical shortages of programmers, systems engineers, and other technical specialists, companies heavily recruited women and even created all-women work groups and subsidiary companies. These women were referred to as “techno-ladies” or TL.

Professor Wei Lewis examines popular discourse on techno-ladies as well as the legal and economic contexts for this phenomenon. In the popular cultural imagination, techno-ladies brought “feminine” aptitudes and skills to a variety of computer-related jobs. She analyzes the gendering of their labor, arguing that this approach allows us to understand how social conditions and expectations shaped computerization in Japan.

About the speaker:

Diane Wei Lewis is Associate Professor of Film and Media Studies at Washington University in St. Louis. She specializes in film and media cultures in Japan, with a focus on gender, emotion, and labor. Her essays have appeared in Cinema Journal, positions: asia critique, Feminist Media Histories, and Screen. She is author of Powers of the Real: Cinema, Gender, and Emotion in Interwar Japan (Harvard University Asia Center, 2019) and is currently writing a book on women’s labor and 1980s information technology.
 This event will be held in-person.

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