Is Virtual Work the Key to the Future of Women in Technology?

women in technology

The lack of women entrepreneurs in the tech industry, and the shortage of female tech employees, have been topics of much discussion. Now a new survey from Elance, Women in Technology, suggests virtual work might be the key to women finally achieving parity with men in tech roles.

The survey, which polled more than 7,000 independent professionals worldwide, found that women are finding more tech opportunities in the virtual world than in the real one. Some 70 percent say online work gives them more opportunities to succeed in technology than traditional on-site work does.

Why are women turning online for tech jobs or to run their tech businesses?

Women in Technology

Online Work Offers a Level Playing Field

Online, gender discrimination is neutralized, Elance’s results suggest. Instead of being perceived as women, female entrepreneurs and tech employees can get respect based on their skills, merits and accomplishments.

Online Work Provides Flexibility for Work/Life Balance

For working moms, whether they’re employees or entrepreneurs, flexibility is key. Virtual work enables both tech entrepreneurs and tech employees to balance their work and family time better. Sixty percent of women in the Women in Technology study say online work allows them to manage personal and professional lives.

Online Work Provides the Ability to Build a Business

Sixty percent of women say working as an independent contractor with multiple clients is easier than trying to find full-time work in the tech field. Virtual work enables women to build their own businesses instead of becoming employees.

Online Work Provides Intellectual Challenge

Some 65 percent of women in technology say the diverse projects they encounter enables them to improve their skills and provides more learning opportunities than an on-site job would. For women who’ve been out of the work force due to layoffs or child-rearing, online work can help them learn new skills and rebuild their portfolios to attract clients or land a job.

There’s still a way to go in building more opportunities for women in technology, however.  Women in the Elance Women in Technology survey say the following changes are needed to close the tech “gender gap:”

  • Providing equal pay to men and women with the same skills (66 percent).
  • Parents and teachers providing more inspiration to girls and young women (55 percent).
  • Dispelling stereotypes that boys are better than girls in math and science (49 percent).
  • Providing more mentoring support for women (47 percent).
  • Seeing more women in technology so there are more role models (47 percent).

The lack of female role models or encouragement for women to pursue technology fields is cited by 45 percent of those surveyed as the major impediment to women’s success in technology — even more than cited a lack of job opportunities/the local economy (34 percent).

Is online technology work in danger of becoming a “pink ghetto?”

If women continue to feel they can’t enjoy success IRL (in real life) but only online, then yes. But the women in the Elance Women in Technology survey aren’t worried about this. A whopping 80 percent are optimistic about the future success of women in technology, and 32 percent are extremely optimistic.  

Key to the Future Photo via Shutterstock

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Rieva Lesonsky Rieva Lesonsky is a Columnist for Small Business Trends covering employment, retail trends and women in business. She is CEO of GrowBiz Media, a media company that helps entrepreneurs start and grow their businesses. Visit her blog, SmallBizDaily, to get the scoop on business trends and free TrendCast reports.