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From the Magazine Partner Insights

Tech is Bridging the Gender Equality Gap

Marie Thomasson spent nearly a decade in fixed income asset management–and then she became a single mother to twin boys. Needless to say, she needed flexibility. She experimented with starting her own business – and found herself working fourteen-hour days instead of her previous ten.

Then she found a different way, working “on demand.”

Almost nine years later, Thomasson is still working for herself, as a contractor. Thanks to a collection of new technologies she works from home, has the flexibility she needs, and is able to work for some of the biggest and most demanding companies in the world.

This need for more independence at work is shared by women around the globe. Some face similar demands of parenthood while others need flexibility to care for ill or aging relatives. Others still simply prefer a more flexible lifestyle. No matter the cause, more and more women are embracing technology to work in non-traditional, yet impactful ways.

One of Thomasson’s recent engagements was with Microsoft, where she project managed internal communications for their data analytics group, a big change from her experience in financial services. “I was terrified that no one would hire me outside of finance,” Thomasson says. “But ultimately, the last few years have taught me that my most valuable skills weren’t honed on a Bloomberg terminal, and that opportunities are all around you, if you keep yourself open to new ideas.”

Thomasson and Microsoft have been collaborating for more than a year thanks to a collection of tools that allows Thomasson to work far away from the company’s headquarters. Document management software, video conferencing, a digital organizer, and cloud-based versions of Office all make the job feasible.

“I couldn’t see myself living this lifestyle even 10 years ago,” she says.

Using the same version of the same products, they can see real-time updates throughout the work day. “Even when Marie has visited here in the office, the work, process and technology used remained the same as if she was 1,145 miles away,” says Loren Pokorny, Principal Data Analyst at Microsoft.

Thomasson also relies on technology to find compelling work opportunities like this one. She connected with Microsoft on The Second Shift, our online marketplace of expert women interested in on-demand projects. By choosing to forgo upfront fees for members and companies, and instead screening experts and opportunities our service is home to a range of curated talent and projects across disciplines. It helps makes freelancing viable for women like Thomasson.

In recent years, companies have been increasingly focused on addressing the gender equity gap. It’s good business: executive-level gender diverse companies are, on average, more profitable, according to a study by McKinsey & Co. But the fact remains that as employees move from early management to senior leadership, the share of women decreases by 16 percent, according to Sheryl Sandberg’s not-for-profit LeanIn.org.  The bright side? Technology is one of the best tools companies have to support this change, and most likely this is tech companies are already embracing (or developing).

Today’s tech grants companies access to a broad pool of top-quality expertise around the world. This is a big part of what makes hiring on-demand talent so compelling for businesses: the talent pool is bigger, denser, and simply put, better. Access to talent also provides a significant opportunity to impact gender diversity; it’s easier than ever to find the best woman for the job, and to make that job work for a variety of women’s lifestyles.

“I am incredibly grateful for my position with Microsoft,” Thomasson says. “It’s allowed me to work in such a way that I don’t have to sacrifice my standards — and gives me the freedom to do so while not worrying how I’ll pay for soccer this year.”

 Jenny Galluzzo and Gina Hadley are co-founders of The Second Shift, a platform that matches women with on-demand work opportunities. Gina will be moderating a panel Monday at Techonomy 2018 on why culture is important to innovation. See it live from our home page at 2:45 p.m. PT.

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