In Canada, as in other OECD Convention on the Organization for Economic Co-operation and Development countries, discussions related to an alleged New Economy" have become prevalent in policy implementation and program development schemes connected to the work and learning paradigm (Fenwick, 2006). Unease over Canada's ability to competitively navigate the global market and to increase employability and productivity are interpreted as an educational issue (Weber, 1968). Often, these issues are described as shortages of skilled trades, low skills or lack of training (HRDC, 2006). The "gender" dynamics rarely surface in the realization and evaluation of training programs and often these differences in various sectors and business functions are not pointed out. Fenwick (2006) calls this a 'gender-blind' approach and sees it as an overly simplistic attitude towards the work knowledge and skills development intended to solve economic challenges through life-long learning related policies. These policy outcomes persist in creating barriers to female participation in formal and informal learning opportunities (Critoph, 2003).
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In our globalized world, modern manufacturing has been reduced in the North and rapidly expanded in the South. To mitigate workers' exploitation occurring from the globalization of production, Miller and his collaborators (2009) recommend modifying the terms and condition in the workplace through the formation of "Mature Systems of Industrial Relations" - an auditing process which includes codes of conduct and global agreements initiatives. As noted by Miller et al (2009), promoting standards and auditing practices continues to be a valuable mechanism to sustain labour rights and increase workers' participation in the global workplace.
Regardless of the soaring numbers of women participating in the workforce, a gendered division of paid labour still persists and is further bound by social class and socio-economic backgrounds (Critoph, 2003). Women live and perceive the labour market in different ways from men. Persistent patterns of horizontal and vertical segregation are still evident, highlighting that women end up in jobs that pay less and necessitate fewer skills than men - often with men in the highest position - and mostly in service-focused professions such as banking, clerical and hospitality positions with much lower compensation and fewer career opportunities (Probert, 1999). Furthermore, women also experience 'gendered job training' and 'feminized' career paths. Probert (1999) confirms that women take part in much of the unskilled clerical work and training for various care occupations (e.g., nursing, home care, child care), and in the people-oriented apprenticeship trades (e.g., hair stylist, and food services), often for lower wages. Though gender differences are not recognized in policy- making in adult education, Critoph (1999) states that women are further excluded from receiving training from their employers because they are more prone to hold part-time or non-standard employment positions. Employers are less likely to spend resources on the development of employees whose overall human capital contributions are less appreciated, or who are considered as less dedicated to the company (Probert, 1999). Full-time staff receives the most training, and management is liable to receive the most training of all and Canadian women are consistently under-represented in management positions (Probert, 1999). Consequently, women must rely on externally developed skills that further deplete their time and income (Probert, 1999). Given the increasing expense of training, many may not be able to manage to pay for it on their own. Another concern related to gender inequality is the widely documented fact that women also bear most child, elderly care and household work responsibilities (Probert, 1999). Thus, little has improved since Hochschild's (1990) reproachful statement arguing that women's 'second shift' of unpaid household work represents a serious inequity of labour in dual earner families. Mothers of young children manage numerous family responsibilities and must work harder than their male colleagues to participate in educational opportunities that entail travel, overtime or an increase in workload.
One author proposes that learning in the workplace creates different forms of job intensification that are being masked by workplace culture, the idealism of workers' flexibility and subjectivity to workplace control (Solomon, 1999). Solomon argues that workplace culture and informal learning practices involve surveillance, control and "cloning" practices which, eventually, influence employees' characteristics, opinions and judgments in ways that match the interests and goals of a business (Solomon, 1999). This argument is largely built on the notion that power is manifested not only by management, but is also programmed through the discourse of workplace cultures (Solomon, 1999). In this sense, Solomon (1999) proposes the concept of workplace learning as a "management technology" to assimilate workplace culture as a form of control. In other words, the approach explores "who" we learn to be at work. Thus, the provision of workplace learning is one such strategy for aligning the goals of the worker and the goals of the company. Probert (1999) and Solomon (2001) dispute that for women there are obstacles to, and restrictions for learning as a consequence of workplace cultures that embrace flexibility, and these same structures continue to benefit men. Flexibility is the prevailing and preferred theme within the contemporary workplace. Flexible employees who are responsive, adaptive and multi-skilled, and who embrace flexible learning are assumed to ensure organizational success (see Maurer and Tarulli 1994; Bratton et al., 2004; Solomon, 2001). These biases not only further intensify disadvantages for women, but also underpin the gendered stereotypes that restrict the professional and personal growth of both sexes. The usual capitalist employee-employer agreement of labour exchanged for earnings has been distorted by the 'learning' agenda.
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Another side of the learning agenda and gender issues involves underemployed women and the gendered determination of skills. The current construct for granting women access to training to promote job equality is an inept and a problematic model (Probert, 1999). It is essential to understand and challenge the impact of a traditional work culture and the hierarchies of power and privilege in a society that continues to ignore women's non-linear life-experiences (Probert, 1999). Women continue to make choices about participation in learning. Their career aspirations and participation in the politics of their workplace are primarily based on accommodating the interests of others. Women, more than men, are expected to prioritize caregiving activities and responsibilities. Time and again women choose to put their family's needs first regardless of whether it is in the best interest of furthering their education or their careers. The values that determine these decisions are often completely dissimilar and unrelated to policy implementation or the demands of the marketplace. The discrediting of women's skills and knowledge and the undervaluation of their unique life trajectories are continual concerns, but an argument can be made for the challenge this creates for working in the individualized and flexible "New Economy".
In pursuit of a flexible "New Economy", increased productivity and lower production costs, companies have moved part or all of their operations to developing countries where labour costs are significantly lower than most developed countries (Miller et al, 2009). Generally, along with these lower wages come poorer working conditions and human rights violations. The increasing shift to intercontinental corporations has brought new challenges regarding the social responsibilities and actions of said corporations with respect to workers and their rights (Miller et al, 2009). This has led to the development of two distinct avenues to ensure compliance to workers' rights standards: codes of conduct and global agreements (Miller et al, 2009). While these two avenues share the same objective, transnational companies prefer codes of conduct, whereas unions prefer global agreements to improve working conditions at offshore factories (Compa, 2004). One frequently cited benefit of codes of conduct over global agreements is that codes are helpful in nations with shaky unions or with low numbers of unions (Braun et al, 2004). Consequently, it is alleged that it is unfeasible to implement global agreements in uncertain regions due to the low level of unionization. In addition, codes of conduct are often the initial first step in promoting unionization, as most policies contain a section consenting to and supporting employees to organize themselves (Braun and Gearhart, 2004). In contrast, some analysts have argued that global agreements offer legal means to impose, rather than merely support workers' rights (Braun and Gearhart, 2004; Compa 2004). Likewise, codes of conduct are vilified by unions for not affording as forceful a monitoring system as unions and global agreements do (Braun and Gearhart, 2004). Many trade unionists regard codes of conduct as little more than handy marketing ploys, allowing foreign companies to evade settling with unions to avoid responsibility for workers' rights (Braun and Gearhart, 2004).
Beyond such subjective arguments, that is, in the instances of weak unions, codes of conduct could promote and secure workplace democracy and encourage access to information and education. Regrettably, to improve their reputations, multi-national companies are opting to choose the route of the "quick fix" in response to overseas labour rights violations instead of opting for the a long-term solution by endorsing union organization and collective bargaining to promote workers' rights in developing countries. (Compa, 2004 pp. 213-214).
Multi-national companies doing business in the "economic south" should assume social responsibility, continue their involvement in workplace industrial relations and pool their resources to address sweatshop conditions by supporting the formation of local unions and the signing of global agreements. In addition, intercontinental corporations could provide valuable knowledge and resources to help improve the compliance monitoring of global agreements. Codes of conduct could still, of course, serve as in-house guiding principles. In countries such as China, and in some free trade zones where local unions are forbidden, codes of conduct will, until there is more pressure from foreign investors, remain the only practical system to promote workers' rights. Consequently, continual low levels of trade union organization and collective bargaining, suggests that relations between employers and foreign manufacturing workers will continue to be strained.
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Against the backdrop of a complex and ever-changing economy, examining the gender dimensions of globalization is vital for advancing "fair and inclusive globalization" that, according to the World Commission on the Social Dimension of Globalization, generates opportunities for all, does not aggravate existing problems of inequality within and between nations, and enables men and women to meet their ambitions for egalitarian involvement and successes (2004). One clear rationale for attending to gender issues is that female workers make up the outstanding majority of the workforces of labour-intensive markets, including the export industries in developing countries. They provide the bulk of care services and tend to be concentrated in the most vulnerable jobs of global production systems. If policymakers do not take gender-based differences in economic behaviour into account, skills training outcomes and understanding of learning in work will definitely lead to the formulation of ineffective and inefficient strategies. Women and men are differently, often unequally, positioned in the economy, perform different socially determined responsibilities, and face different constraints; thus, they are unlikely to respond in the same way to skills training and market signals. Gender equality with respect to opportunity and treatment in the global economy is essential for achieving equity and social justice. The globalization process should help reduce, or at least not aggravate, inequalities between men and women. In particular, trade unions are vital to handle power imbalances to improve the domineering capitalist influence of business associations. Trade unions with strong political influence can stabilize industrial relations to make sure that economic growth does not work against the disadvantaged.
The feminization of the post-industrial workforce cannot be presumed to have lessened the implication and the notion of gendered workers and gendered work, as well as gendered labour markets. A comprehensive understanding of the way gender shapes the workplace, organizations and labour market is crucial if we are to recognize how workplace learning is controlled and experienced in contemporary work environments. Women's domestic responsibilities are exploited to rationalize their segregation from equal economic incentives as well as training and career options. There is no basis for thinking that stressing the importance of workplace learning will accomplish anything other than sustain the imbalance given that the prevailing debate continues to rely on supposed and uninformed ideas of work culture, and on systems that continue to uphold the status quo that benefits men. Human resources professionals would benefit from recognizing the discrepancies in employee development and learning, organization change, and policy development and from applying resources to create more egalitarian workplace learning opportunities using diverse, inclusive and mindful methodologies. By engaging employees with a clear appreciation of culture as a transforming process rather than an unchanging condition, workplace learning discourses and practices can be further refined and seen as change opportunities. Learning in the workplace where flexibility is the standard may best be understood and approached as an unfolding, enriching experience that represents the employees' life and work experience.
If we accept these findings along with other opinions opposed to the continuation of structural gender inequity in the workplace in the so-called New Economy, how can policymakers appreciate formal and non-formal training to identify gaps for vocational training? Ongoing vigilance is needed to eliminate gender labeling, to include a female viewpoint in work and education training programs, and to support and appreciate women's knowledge and their worldviews.