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Francis Santos

Women in the Workplace: Has the Internet Expanded Opportunity?

Oct 17 2011, 08:15 PM by

The digital age is ripe with opportunity, offering jobs and even lifestyles that did not exist two short decades ago. Its capacity for anonymity has even mitigated the chance of discrimination, whether based on pre-existing health conditions, race or gender. Yet from the moment women entered the workplace, they met unique challenges, some subtle, others much more obvious. While women have made numerous contributions in engineering, health care, technology and many other fields, and although opportunities are more abundant for all in the digital era, obstacles still exist to a true gender equality. Below are common issues cited by women in the workplace.
“They Don't Take Me Seriously”
We have seen a countless number of women buck the trend and become highly successful in the world of entrepreneurship. Ariana Huffington, Catherine Cook and Meg Hourihan are just a few examples of women who have harnessed the power of the internet to achieve success in the digital age. I’m sure that even these powerful female entrepreneurs will tell you that getting there was no walk in the park. Several women find it difficult to acquire the capital they need because investors and banks often see them as high risk projects. This kind of treatment can lead to discouragement that leaves anyone stuck in the cycle of complacency.
Balancing Work and Family Life
Some of the aspects that make it a tough go for women in the workplace are related to the environment itself, but several others are not. In fact, one of the biggest challenges is actually trying to find that careful balance between business and family life. Times have changed, but women are still the very foundation of the family in many households. Not wanting to let anyone down, they often find themselves torn between the two most important commitments in their lives.
Blatant Discrimination
The work environment is often the place where it rears its ugly head. As bone-headed as it may sound, some people still have the mind set that men are just better suited to handle certain tasks than their female counterparts. In extreme cases, this can jeopardize opportunities for advancement and create what is essentially an unfair competition.
Moving Towards Real Equality
A survey conducted by the Equal Opportunity for Women in the Workplace Agency shows that female job candidates are increasingly favoring companies that have a history of promoting and otherwise supporting women, flexible working conditions that accommodate family life and a large number of women in high ranking positions, among other qualities. Being equally compensated is also a demand, and according to research this is the area in which females are really getting a raw deal. Data compiled by the Australian Bureau of Statistics in 2010 shows that women received an average of 32.1% less pay than males, a 28.5% increase from the numbers in 2009.

For companies, catering to women is about more than just improving public perception. There are plenty other benefits up for grabs, including:
Attracting highly qualified employees and retaining existing staff
Increasing productivity in the workplace
Improving managerial operations
Minimizing risks
Appealing to a larger number of female customers
Despite the challenges that still linger, the digital age has leveled the field like never before. Today, we are to the point where we control our own destiny more than ever. While the same can be said for female entrepreneurs, it is a bit different in the workplace where women are employees with bosses to answer to. In order for things to change across the board, women must get support from supervisors, managers and other higher-ups with power on the job. Until the card holders step up, the uphill climb will continue.

So what do you think? Reply below to tell us what, if anything, has changed in the last twenty years about women at work. Has the internet made a significant dent in gender equality?

Posted in Tech Editorial

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