Women and the World Wide Web of work
Regional Australian businesses are powering ahead with technology, and women are leading the way. In fact, 80 percent of finalists for the Regional Online Heroes program, run by the Regional Australia Institute (RAI) and Google, have been women. To celebrate the launch of Regional Online Heroes for 2017, the RAI is highlighting ways that women in business can benefit from the continued proliferation of internet communication technologies and its impact on the changing nature of work.
Entries are now open for the 2017 Regional Online Heroes program at www.regionalaustralia.org.au. Applications close midnight Sunday 8 October.
In many ways, the future of work is already here. People around the globe are finding innovative ways of making a living that are so far beyond what many could have conceived even a few years ago. And the nature of work is only going to keep changing.
In today’s economy, sole traders and multinational companies alike are tapping into global markets. At the same time, a multitude of work-based tasks are being increasingly set ‘in the air’ through online marketplaces such as Airtasker. Consequently, employment opportunities are no longer guaranteed locally nor confined to single countries or time zones.
If there’s one thing to be certain about the foreseeable future, it’s this: as we continue to ride the wave towards the future of work, digital connectivity and literacy will remain king (or queen, as the case may be).
Some futurist commentators like Jerry Kaplan, say women are the clear winners in the future of work. This is because women dominate high-care professions that require a high degree of human contact and are therefore less prone to automation – one of the key outcomes of technological advancement expected to increase in years to come.
Moreover, the more that mainstream work is able to be carried out online, the greater the flexibility in combining work and caring responsibilities (which at present, are predominantly assumed by women). By becoming ‘digital nomads’, women will be more readily able to remain in the workforce while raising children rather than be forced to choose between family and career.
For many women, the flexibility afforded by the earning potential of the internet, and the platform economy especially, is opening new doors and opportunities. According to MBO, sellers on the global online market store Etsy, for instance, are mostly women (89 per cent). So are the hosts on the property sharing site Airbnb (67 per cent). Both of these platforms provide a way to market wares to worldwide audiences, and a means to make income as a result.
The internet also offers multiple channels for women running their own businesses to make a name for themselves, both in Australia and overseas. Byron-based sister-led fashion label Spell & The Gypsy Collective is just one example of how regional Australian business owners are using the power of social media to break into international markets. Spell currently has 805,000 Instagram followers (more than the two biggest Australian department stores, Myer and David Jones, combined), and conducts the vast majority of its sales online, via both Australian and US-based web stores.
The World Wide Web offers non-monetary benefits to regional Australian women, too. The chance to use the internet not just to make money but to link up with like-minded individuals is something that 2015 Regional Online Heroes finalist Rebel Black envisioned when she started The Rural Woman, an online community ‘by rural women, for rural women’.
The idea of The Rural Woman, as its tagline expresses, is ‘bloom where you are planted’. It seeks to empower women to overcome the isolation that can come from living away from metropolitan centres and to network and collaborate – socially and professionally – to increase the vibrancy of their offline communities.
The Regional Online Heroes program, delivered annually by the RAI and Google, showcases the innovative ways regional businesses are using the internet for growth, with women making up 80 per cent of all finalists so far.
At the Regional Australia Institute we’re keen to hear more about other ‘rebels’ of the world – innovative regional businesswomen for whom the internet is vital to their prosperity. If you are a woman operating a business out of regional Australia and are using the internet in new and exciting ways to tap into new markets or services, we’d love to hear from you.
Being a Regional Online Hero could mean anything from using online marketing to attract new customers, expanding a traditional bricks and mortar store to selling online, or managing a team across borders using online productivity tools.
Entries are now open for the 2017 Regional Online Heroes program at regionalaustralia.org.au. Applications close midnight Sunday 8 October.
Ten lucky finalists will receive the opportunity to travel to Google in Sydney to attend an exclusive digital marketing masterclass on Friday 1 December, where they will share their stories and develop new skills.