Campaign India Team
Feb 25, 2010

Does the Internet empower working women?

To what extent has the Internet helped working women strike a work-life balance? Campaign Indial finds out...

Does the Internet empower working women?

To what extent has the Internet helped working women strike a work-life balance? Campaign Indial finds out...

The Internet has allowed a sort of seamless integration of working and non-working hours which has brought a host of advantages, especially for working women. Work-life balance has been an age old issue for women everywhere. However, with the advent of the Internet, working hours have become really flexible and thus management of the work-life balance easier. Also, women can now get back to work faster because of the Internet when they are on natural breaks like maternity leave. At the India Today Women Summit 2010, Campaign India spoke to five women professionals to get their perspective on how Internet is proving to be a boon and almost an indispensable tool for working women.

Bridget Brennan, author and founder, Female Factor (a consultancy that advises companies on how to create products, services and sales environments that appeal to women) feels that the Internet is a huge opportunity because it allows women to work from home which is a great thing for them and also for companies as it keeps the costs down.

Says Vandana Luthra, founder and mentor, VLCC Health Care, “In a business like mine, when it comes to getting any information on what is happening in any part of the world in the areas of diet, beauty or management, Internet is a great advantage. Through the Internet, information comes to us quickly. It keeps us informed.” Tara Thiagarajan, chairperson, Madura Micro Finance Ltd adds that certain kinds of job have a lot of advantages through the Internet. “The Internet can give you flexible hours especially if you are a knowledge worker. It helped me through my maternity periods, after my kids were born.”

Even though working women swear by the Internet to free up their hours and make things more flexible for them, they are very quick to point out that being “too accessible” is clearly one big disadvantage.  Brennan points out, “It is a double edged sword for women and for men too. Now you can always be reached and it would be expected that you are connected. Even when you are on vacations, people think you would surely be checking your emails. I think yes, it is completely liberating but the other side of the coin that you can never ever turn off and that’s hard.” Koel Purie, actor and TV host also feels the same. She says, “People now know that I have a BlackBerry so they expect a response immediately. I don’t want to give that.”

A simple solution, according to many women professionals, is to have Internet access but no BlackBerrys. Says Thiagarajan, “The disadvantages depend on how you set yourself up on the Internet. I don’t actually have a Blackberry. But if I am web enabled and I need something at some point of time, I can always have access to it. But it doesn’t mean that I am available to anyone at any given time.”

 Bridget Brennan, author and founder, Female Factor

The Internet has made working hours more flexible for women but it’s a double edged sword for women and for men too. Now you can always be reached and it would be expected that you are connected. Even when you are on vacations, people think you would surely be checking your emails. I think it is completely liberating but the other side of the coin is that you can never turn off and that’s hard. However, the Internet is a huge opportunity because it allows women to work from home which is a great thing for them and also for a lot of companies as it keeps the costs down. I think all in all, it’s a huge positive.

Vandana Luthra, founder and mentor, VLCC Health Care

I believe that the Internet is now becoming a disadvantage.  When I started 20 years back, the communication was different. Communication with colleagues is very important as you share so much. With the Internet, that has gone down. Secondly, I think the buck is always passed on to someone else. Everybody has BlackBerrys and they are not taking decisions fast, thus delaying the decision making.   However, in a business like mine, when it comes to getting any information on what is happening in the world in the areas of diet, beauty or management, Internet is a great advantage.

 Tara Thiagarajan, chairperson, Madura Micro Finance

It helps me take my work wherever I want. It definitely gives you a whole lot of flexibility. However, it also depends on the kind of work you do. For what I do, the Internet is great. The disadvantages depend on how you set yourself up on the net. I don’t have a BlackBerry but I am web enabled and if I need something at some point of time, I can have access to that. But it doesn’t mean that I am available to anyone at any given time. So I can decide when I want to be accessible. Internet can give you flexible hours especially if you are a knowledge worker. It helped me through my maternity periods, after my kids were born.

 Koel Purie, actor and TV host

I am a late cyber bloomer. I have just got myself a BlackBerry through major pressure because I travel a lot for my shows and other work. And I swear by it already. It does free your hours.  In fact, recently somebody suggested that I do my interviews via webcam!

However, I believe that cyberspace should be used for work. For personal relationships, it should not substitute real interactions.

I really like the fact that I don’t have to go to a workstation to put my blog post in or get my research or facts. Also, when I am shooting, I am not completely disconnected from the world.

  Sunita Maheshwari, pediatric cardiologist & co-founder, Teleradiology Solutions

I think the Internet has definitely made working hours more flexible. On a personal front, I can come home to do a couple of things and then get back to work at home from 9 pm to midnight. I can get a lot of my things done just on the Internet.

Our whole office’s schedules, leaves, proposals etc are all Internet based. Especially as a woman, it is really important what I can do with my time. Productivity has definitely increased because of the Internet. However, I don’t have a BlackBerry as that makes you too accessible and people expect instant replies.

Source:
Campaign India