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PC World

Women tout work technology

January 18, 1999
Web posted at: 5:04 p.m. EST (2204 GMT)

by Jennifer Peltz

(IDG) -- American women give themselves a vote of confidence for working well with computers and other information technology devices, according to a survey released this week.

In fact, women are more enthusiastic about new office technology than men are, says the survey conducted by Hewlett-Packard and Working Woman magazine. A smaller proportion of women than men complained that technology made work more difficult--and more women were eager to introduce young children to technology.

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The project, which comes as statistics show women are a growing presence on the Internet, aimed to measure women's attitudes toward computers, fax machines, voice mail, and other common office electronics, but researchers questioned both men and women. And they got a sense of technological equality: 76 percent of both women and men agreed the sexes were equally good at taking on new technology.

"Not only does it seem that the gender gap is gone" in the use of information technology, says Working Woman Editor Bernadette Grey, "but that women have pulled ahead."

While 39 percent of men said office electronics end up complicating work, only 27 percent of women did, the study showed. And nearly half the women said children should be introduced to computer technology before age five, but only a third of the men agreed.

Meanwhile, other recent studies have charted a rapid rise in the numbers of women using the Internet. Women now make up nearly 40 percent of the nation's online population--as opposed to 3 percent four years ago, according to the Georgia Institute of Technology, which surveys Internet users twice a year. Last summer, America Online announced that for the first time more than half its clients were women.

"To say all this is because women have changed isn't true," Grey says. "The technology industry has changed, too, in the way computers are made and bundled and marketed. As computers became more [portrayed as] work tools, that's when women became much more interested and literate."

Women target tech training

Besides making them more productive workers, most women told the researchers their technical knowledge made them more sought after.

That would be good news to the National Organization for Women, which has tried to raise women's profile in the workplace for 30 years--if it were news. But NOW has already sensed what the new survey shows, President Patricia Ireland says.

"One of the things [NOW members] look for when they're looking for [work] is jobs where they're going to get better skills on computers," Ireland says. "That's a higher value, especially for the young women, than the immediate pay they're going to be getting. We hear it with great regularity."

The survey is certainly good news for Hewlett-Packard, which makes many of the devices that women overwhelmingly praised for making work easier. But company spokesperson Kara Lakkees warns against making too much of the demographics.

"Technology is technology, and you don't want to condescend to anyone," she says. "I'm not going to suggest that someone should make a powder-puff-pink printer."

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