The Role of Women in Telework

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1. Introduction

A crying baby, a pot which is about to spill over, a ring at the doorbell while hanging on the phone trying to get a good deal with a business partner... And in the middle of all that a mother, wife and business woman who tries to get the situation under control. Can you imagine the scenario? Is this the picture women will have to face in the future if they neither want to neglect their business career, nor their family life?

We live in a time where everybody is using computers, e-mail and the Internet – everybody is connected through the world wide web. This gives us many more possibilities in the field of how to do our work. It seems to be convenient, doing your job out of your home. However, it is not always as easy as it sounds.

This paper will first of all give an idea of what telework is, compare pros and cons and will then, in particular from a woman’s point of view, explore how telework will affect the currently separate spheres of home, work and family.

2. What is telework?

This part of the dossier will give a definition of telework, describe its development and finally tell something about the number of people who are teleworking.

2.1 Definition
Telework can be defined as “carrying out a distance-work in direct connection with the head office or other offices through the use of communication and information technologies" (Nilles 1996). According to Höller, Pils and Zlabinger (1999) there are several different forms of telework, e.g. working at home, in a satellite centre, which are centres close to the workers’ homes, containing all the technology they need, or doing mobile telework.

2.2 Development
As described on the internet homepage of JALA International the term “telework” first appeared in the 1970’s in the United States and was mainly coined by Jack Nilles who nowadays is also known as “the father of telecommuting and teleworking” (Hunter 1999). Reasons for the development of telework were on the one hand, considering the oil crises at that time, trying to save energy and reduce traffic in big cities (Hunter 1999). Independently from that, people were claiming more flexible working hours. The Advancing Women Network explains in its homepage that this especially started out from women, because more and more women began to work and were searching for ways of being able to work without neglecting family duties.

Another aspect is, that today’s information technology is highly developed. Of course, this plays an important role for telework. Technologies like e-mail, fax or cellular phones make distances unimportant and the worker is able to communicate with the company very easily. For certain types of work, Bibby (1999) explains, it does not matter weather you go to an office or you do your job out of your home.

2.3 How many people are tele-working?
Considering the different forms of telework and that one clear definition of telework does not exist, it is not very easy to get an exact number of how many people are tele-working. Nevertheless we can say that telework is predominant in the United States. Figure 1 is a forecast of the total number of teleworkers in the US. It is based on a survey of the International Telework Association (1999) and depicts regular teleworkers, teleworking at least one day monthly. It shows the expectation of almost 50 million teleworkers by the year 2025.

Figure 1: Forecast of the expected total number of teleworkers in the US.

In Europe about 1% of the work force is tele-working (Kotulla 1998). According to an investigation published at, depending on the definition, between 21.800 and 51.600 people, which equals 0,6 % to 1,4 %, are tele-working in Austria.

3. Women and telework

It is a fact that even in a time of equal rights, women are still the ones who are made responsible for housework and childcare. The Advancing Women Network (1996) points out that married women have to do 70% of the household...
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