Excerpts from a presentation by BPW Foundation CEO, Deborah L. Frett at the
WIPP Conference on Using Social Media and Technology to Build Business Opportunities
Monday, October 24, 2011, Portland, ME
Business and Professional Women’s Foundation since its inception has supported workforce development programs and workplace policies that recognize the diverse needs of working women, communities and businesses. Established in 1956 as part of BPW/USA, we were the first foundation to focus our attention on working women and how to help them establish successful careers in equitable workplaces. Over the years we have focused on issues such access to credit, equal and fair pay, women in non traditional jobs, young careerists, women veterans, work-life balance and equal opportunity. As new issues arise we have been there to research, educate and advocate on behalf of working women. An issue that wasn’t around in 1956 is the impact and growth of the Internet, e-mail and social media on today’s working women and women business owners. Who could have imagined?
Wanting to learn how women use high-speed Internet or broadband technology, BPW Foundation conducted an online research survey in March of this year. The purpose of was to explore the opportunities in business and personal advancement that technology has opened up and overall, how it has impacted women’s lives.
We know that the Internet has become widely available and essential for personal interactions, education, training and economic opportunities – think job searches, marketing, researching, networking and more. But along with others we heard that women were not as technically proficient in the use of new technology.
What we learned was that ninety-three percent of the women surveyed felt that high-speed Internet has improved their lives. We have found that women continue to use high-speed technology as a critical component of building their businesses and advancing their careers. This may not be surprising but it provided us with the hard facts and numbers to back up our assumptions.
The survey shows that there are differences in high speed Internet access, use, and needs based on age, employment, military status, and geographic location. Not surprisingly, women business owners and self-employed women use high-speed technology to build their businesses though marketing, but readily admit that they are not always aware of what they should be learning or doing to improve efficiency, and advance and maximize their results. In essence they d don’t always know what questions to ask to make the Internet work better for them.
We learned from the survey that there is a critical need to educate women on how to better and more efficiently utilize high-speed technology to empower them to remain competitive in the workplace, in their own businesses, and in their personal lives in this growing, digitally-based economy.
Additionally there is a clear need for continued focus on a competitive broadband market to allow for deployment, access and adoption that assures all women use of high-speed Internet for professional and educational development.
Some key findings include:
- Women are constantly connected to high-speed technology, at home or away, on a range of devices. Within sub-populations, mature women and those in rural areas are less likely than others to remain connected via mobile technology.
- Given the need for multi-tasking by women today, increased Internet access and reliable Internet speed is essentially a requirement, integral to a variety of confidence-boosting behaviors and effective, educated decision making.
- Women use high-speed Internet for personal and professional networking and social interaction, product research and personal business such as banking and secondarily for business marketing and development.
- Few women in business utilize the Internet to access government procurement opportunities for professional exposure and business growth.
- Nearly 60% of women are satisfied with their understanding of Internet pricing and provider options, but they would like to learn more about these and understand technical broadband functionality.
- Women with experience in the military are more concerned than other populations about internet security and how they might use this technology to improve their personal security.
While there is a need for more research within some of the population subsets in our research, we found without question that broadband and mobile technology enhance the lives of working women and women seeking employment.
On the personal front, broadband access and handheld devices provide ready information and an ability to make educated decisions and respond instantly. On the professional front, high-speed technology empowers women via their various connections to edit and add to their resume, search for a job, write reports with a sleeping infant in their lap, download financial reports at their kitchen table at 3 am or join a conference call on their way home from caring for elderly relative. And who knows what the future holds.
In conclusion we need competition, choice and education to strengthen the high-speed Internet market for women. Without access to high-speed Internet, the digital literacy gap will only widen for women, hindering their successes. Increasing Internet provider options to all communities and providing high-speed Internet options at a reasonable price is essential to bridge this gap.
We all know there are technologies around the corner that we cannot even imagine, but what ever they are we need to be sure that women are ready and able to easily use and access them.
Visit the BPW Foundation Website to read the full report