Back when I was a neuroscientist, I participated in all sorts of "Women in Science and Technology" events and outreach programs. I have been thinking a lot lately about another kind of "woman in tech," namely those who are able create new jobs for themselves thanks to online connectivity and business tools.
This comes about in many ways. As a writer, for example, blogging has clearly revolutionized grassroots journalism. But beyond that, digital technologies have transformed all parts of the publishing world, creating new opportunities for product development, printing, distribution, and publicity outreach.
I got in touch with author/entrepreneurs Sarah Headrick and Sarah Rivera after coming across their site Custom Made for Kids, which has the quality design of a site you would expect from a large company, but operates from a Yahoo Store platform. I was taken by the concept and illustrations for their personalized children's storybook, The First Adventures of Incredible You, and decided to find out more about the partners behind this new venture, suspecting the the internet was the key ingredient powering every level of their startup company.
Headrick and Rivera confirm that this is the case:
At the start of our business, it was through the internet that we were able to do our initial market research to confirm that there was a void in the market with respect to highly customizable storybooks. Most only incorporated the name and birthdate of the child into the book whereas we wanted ours to include 20 pieces of personalized information so that the ultimate book was truly a story about the child receiving the book.
In addition, it was through the internet that we were able to research the software we would ultimately need to intake the customized information needed to produce variable text in our book and "magically" turn around and output a personalized book. Moreover, having the the intake process occur via an online order process rather than through a salesperson at a store ensures that the information is spelled properly and taken down in accordance with the customer's wishes, so that the customer receives an error-free book. The internet also made it fairly easy to find a reliable binding method for creating a high-quality hardcover book that could be bound at the last second for one customer at a time.
Women are utilizing technology to fuel different types of entrepreneurial dreams, including many who are forging their own pathways back to work after having their children.
Maryanne Perrin is a partner at Balancing Professionals, a firm that connects highly educated workers with flexible employment opportunities. Balancing Professionals relies on technology to create their firm's own flexible work environment, as do many of their clients. She notes the upward trend in women's entrepreneurship:
Women owned businesses are growing at a rapid pace in part because of the lack of flexibility in corporate America. The access to sophisticated technology at affordable pricing is a huge enabler for the birth of these businesses. For example, we work with five or six different web-based software companies for key tools that let us run our business efficiently, yet I don't have the costly investment of an I/T department or substantial hardware. Even five years ago, a lot of the technology we use now simply wasn't available.
Women need to know that even if they have never programmed a line of code in their lives, there is a great variety of user-friendly tech solutions to explore and implement, allowing people from all walks of life to reinvent themselves as entrepreneurs.