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Businesswomen Say Online Communication Gives Them More Power; New Survey Says Women's Online Contributions are Heard, Valued, More Than Face-to-Face


    
    --A majority of businesswomen in a recent survey think their ideas are more likely to be heard, appreciated and responded to when they use online communication at work, compared to the traditional face-to-face method.
    The finding emerged in a survey of 675 mid-level and senior businesswoman from across the nation, developed by the Simmons Graduate School of Management (GSM) Center for Gender in Organizations. It was administered by the Compaq Computer Corporation during the GSM's national Leadership Conference for Women in May, attended by 2,600 businesswomen.
    The survey was developed to assess the impact on women's careers of the use of internet-based information technology, specifically e-mail and online collaboration tools such as Lotus Notes.
    Approximately two-thirds of the women thought that using online communication compared to face-to-face communication meant their ideas are more likely to be heard (65%), that their colleagues are more responsive (66%), and that it is easier to express their thoughts (67%).
    Sixty percent said online communication made it easier to get a meaningful place in workplace discussions and decision-making, and 52% said their work was more likely to be appreciated. Fifty-seven percent felt their gender matters less when they use e-mail or online collaboration tools, compared to communicating face-to-face.
    Earlier studies have shown that gender bias exists in the workplace; women are more likely to be interrupted than men, and often are given less credit for their contributions. GSM researchers surmised that the "faceless" nature of contributing to an online "team" might be helping women gain more equal footing in workplace discussions and decisions.
    "This news is significant for managers who want to maximize the contribution and talents of every employee," said Patricia O'Brien, dean of the Simmons Graduate School of Management. "If this new way of communicating online in the workplace allows women's contributions to be heard and valued more, that's good for women and good for business."
    The majority of respondents were between the ages of 30 and 59; 62% earn more than $75,000 a year. They represent a wide range of industries, including finance, communications, technology, insurance and health care. Almost half work in organizations of 20,000 or more employees.

    Other findings include:

-- 84% of the women agreed strongly or somewhat strongly that they are more productive using e-mail and online collaboration tools; 75% said they do more work in less time.
-- 63% say online communication improves their workplace creativity, while 40% say it gives them less time for creativity.
-- 68% say online workplace communication enables them to better manage the boundaries between work and personal life, while 58% say online tools require them to spend more time at their desk.
-- 61% feel strongly or somewhat strongly that information technology makes life less stressful, while in a separate question, 47% feel strongly or somewhat strongly it makes life more stressful.

    The survey was administered throughout the day on Compaq laptop computers connected to a standalone local area network. The questions explored a variety of issues, including how women feel about the value of online communication, whether it makes their lives more or less stressful, and its impact on their productivity and creativity.