Women Thrive In Tech Careers, Thanks To Online Work

This article discusses what it takes to bridge the gender gap in the IT industry, challenges that women in tech have faced over the years and the changes ahead.

It’s no secret that the high technology workspace has long been “male friendly.” However, I’m excited to see that the tech gender gap is gradually narrowing for women, as online work is helping to support a satisfying career path throughout different phases of women’s lives.

As a women in the technology field, I experienced first hand the stress many other women feel in trying to balance work and family. However, I also differed quite a bit from them, as I was already a VP at eBay when I had my child. Also, my husband works from home. This allowed me a level of professional, personal and financial flexibility few women have. For example, a few years back as I was returning from the office at 11pm after yet another day of not seeing my son during his waking hours, I decided to step back and take a five month hiatus from my job. This break, spent with my small family travelling the Southwest by camper and helping my son learn how to play soccer and swim, is something I will cherish forever. When I returned to work, I actually started in a more senior role with agreed upon “on/off” times.

But as I looked around, I noticed that many other mothers experiencing similar stress levels were simply abandoning their careers. This fact was not lost on Sheryl Sandberg in her best-selling book Lean In, where she notes that 43% of highly-qualified women with children are at some point taking leave of their full time job. The fact is, we were losing many of the best minds in technology simply because women were unable to meet, to their own satisfaction, the demands of both a career and a family.

With this in mind I began mentoring women to help them achieve more success in their careers, but I must admit my guidance was hit and miss. Given my personal circumstances, my “secrets to success” simply weren’t applicable to many women in the workforce.

I saw women who wanted to progress, but found that the strains on their families from a 50+ hour week not worth the aggravation or paycheck. And if they stuck with the job, they didn’t feel good about it.

This is why today’s growing movement to online work and freelancing is such an exciting development. Now women who want to continue working while spending time with their children can find jobs that allow them to not only make money, but continue developing their skills and remain competitive – especially important if they plan to re-enter the workforce fulltime. Freelancing and online work can help prevent women who decide to “fallback” from falling off the career ladder forever.

At the online workplace Elance, where I’m now VP of Operations, there are a plethora of technology jobs in many different areas from which to choose. A recent global survey of 7,000+ freelancers on Elance shows that women are as optimistic as I am about the future of online work. The study reveals that online work allows women more opportunities and offers a greater diversity of projects, keeping their skills relevant and sharp.

Now as I continue my mentoring with young women and girls, I can tell them that yes, technology is a great career option because it can accommodate their changing life priorities. Although there is still much work to be done, I am optimistic. With online work there is now the freedom and flexibility to build and maintain an engaging tech career and have a happy family life. This is the work/life balance that can be so rewarding.

By Elizabeth Tse, VP of Operations for Elance, an online workplace