Women in the tech industry are turning to the Web to escape their traditional work barriers, according to a recent Elance study.
In fact, 78 percent of the survey's women respondents already conduct more than three-quarters of their freelance work online. The survey questioned 7,000 global independent professionals, with 80 percent of the respondents claiming that they're optimistic about the future of high-tech professions for women, despite a lag in pay equality and encouragement from life influencers, such as teachers and parents.
"For women in tech, online work is a level playing field where merit and results win," said Fabio Rosati, CEO of Elance. "Online work provides an attractive avenue to neutralize gender discrimination around the world and create flexible professional opportunities not available in traditional job markets."
Online work is appealing to women for a variety of reasons, including that it allows them to build a work-life balance where they can set their own priorities. In fact, the study found that 60 percent of women who work online say that it enables them to easily manage their personal and professional lives. Moreover, 65 percent of women who work online claim the diversity of projects provides them with learning opportunities and strengthens their skill sets, while 60 percent of women say that online work allows them to work with multiple clients and is easier than competing for a full-time job.
"After taking five years off to focus on my family, I knew reentering the tech workforce would be difficult because this sector moves at lightning speed," said Heidi Vanyo, a software developer based in Blaine, MN and owner of Solutions by Heidi, LLC. "Instead of seeking a traditional full-time job, I opted for online employment on Elance due to the flexibility it provides me as a working mom. Within a few months, I was able to build up my web development portfolio and work with a variety of businesses around the world."
That said, there are still many factors that need to be focused on in order to close the technology gender gap. For example, 66 percent of women from the Elance survey state that offering equal pay to men and women with the same skill sets can help close the gap, while 55 percent say that receiving more inspiration from parents and teachers at a young age is also influential. Additionally, 49 percent of women state that dispelling the stereotypes that boys are better than girls in math and science can help bridge the gap, while 47 percent claim mentoring support for women is beneficial, and 47 percent say that seeing more women in technology as role models will also help close the tech gender gap.
It is important to note that despite these gender barriers, 80 percent of women are optimistic about the future success for women in technology. In fact, the study found that many women are planning to acquire new technology skill sets in the next year, including 36 percent who plan to gain website design skills, 29 percent who want to learn Web programming and 22 percent who are interested in mobile app development.
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