That was the consensus of a panel of experts discussing the impact of technology on the family at a conference held here Friday entitled, "Work and Family: Today's Realities, Tomorrow's Visions." The panel discussion, sponsored by Intel Corp. (Nasdaq:INTC) and the Business and Professional Women USA trade group, focused on products and services including, videophone technology, online shopping, and online banking and bill paying.
"Technology also allows us to do home things at work as well as to work at home," said Kirby Dyess, general manager of new business development at Intel.
Dyess, who spearheads Intel's merger and acquisition efforts, said that as the line between work and home blurs, the Internet and e-mail lets people set up child care schedules, correspond with their children's teachers, and even choose health care providers during work down time. All of which can be done whether they are in the office or on the road.
Home work in the office
In the past, she said, people had to take more time off work for such tasks, and their overall productivity suffered. But without having to leave the office for a few hours to drive to meetings with teachers and to go food shopping, for example, working moms as well as dads can actually be more productive.
"I think about how I do things now, and I realize that technology enables work/life balance," Dyess said. As a senior Intel executive with a demanding travel schedule, she is still managing to coordinate a massive Thanksgiving gathering -- one that involves bringing in relatives from out of state -- more or less all on e-mail.
"I have my Thanksgiving group all set up on my e-mail system, and all the updates to go to them," she said.
With research showing that women make the bulk of families' consumer buying choices and doing an increasing amount of online investing, technology companies are well-served to respond to their needs with compelling e-commerce and financial sites, said Susan Dailey, president of Business and Professional Women USA.
Opportunities for working women to use the Web to their advantage will expand along with financial opportunities for Internet companies as more homes go online, Dailey said.
Computers not just for kids
"As our kids grow up with this in their schools from a very early age, more parents are realizing how important it is to have a computer in the home," she said. "Then the parents start using it to research a new car purchase, to check out investment opportunities and it snowballs from there."
The conference, sponsored by the Alfred P. Sloan Foundation, the Business and Professional Women's Foundation and the Wellesley College Center for Research on Women, continues here through Saturday.