A Woman's Place is in the Home
(At the Computer)
Back in the pre-computer age, most women
basically had three choices: staying home to mother their children (and foregoing the
income they were capable of contributing to the family coffers), going out to work in the
"outside world" (and sacrificing the opportunity to provide the close guidance
they'd like to their children), or trying to do both via a usually-menial "work at
home" job like stuffing envelopes, taking in laundry, typing term papers, and the
Sure, a few creative women were able to
make a decent living as writers or artists, working out of their homes. And the occasional
bright and ambitious entrepreneuress got rich doing direct marketing or sales from the
comfort of her own castle. But by and large, options for at-home workers were few. That's
all changed, thanks to the Internet-oriented, computercentric, "connected" world
in which we now live.
Telecommuting is catching on. Companies
are recognizing the very real cost benefits of not having to provide office space to
employees, and female workers in particular are welcoming the chance to do meaningful,
well-paid work without having to farm their kids out to babysitters or spend time and
money on driving, parking and business attire.
And more and more women are finding the
market is ripe for starting computer-based home businesses of their own. Opportunities
abound. Creative women are opening companies that are devoted to graphic arts or website
design and maintenance. Technically trained women are getting into programming and the
currently hot area of database design. Those with less expertise can still make good money
providing services such as data entry or word processing or computized bookkeeping. If
you're tired of the rat race, but your family is dependent on your income, you might
consider some of these options for yourself.
A common question is: what kind of
equipment do you need to do computer work from home? There is a misconception among many
women that a huge initial investment is required. But today's computer hardware prices are
at an all-time low, and a functional, relatively high tech home office can be set up for
far less than you might imagine.
Even top of the line quality computer
systems can be purchased for under $2000 these days. This is for a high powered
workstation capable of doing complex graphics manipulation; a standard system for
text-based tasks can be had for only a few hundred. Internet access in most markets is
available for $20/month or less. Even high speed ISDN, ADSL, and cable modem service can
be had in many locations at very reasonable rates (less than $100/month).
Does the home business you have in mind
require more sophisticated equipment, such as video teleconferencing capability? Never
mind -- you still don't have to mortgage the house to swing it. Color cameras, such as the
Connectix, cost less than $200 now, and the software in many instances is free. Not only
that, but it's becoming easier and easier to set it all up yourself, saving you the cost
of paying someone to install your new peripherals.
Once upon a time, laser printers were
something you found only at the office -- few people could afford them at home. Now
compact laser printers from major manufacturers, which give you the same publication-
quality print as those that cost thousands of dollars just a few years ago, can be bought
for under $300. Check out the Xerox P8 for an especially good value.
Another advantage of working at home is
the freedom to set up your workplace to suit your needs. Don't skimp on comfort -- if
you're going to be spending a lot of time at the computer, it pays to invest in an
ergonomic keyboard such as the Microsoft Natural Keyboard or the less expensive (but
almost identical) PC Concepts. The latter comes in several models, some of which include
built-in mini-trackballs or touchpads.
Speaking of pointing devices, you'll find
that there are many alternatives to the familiar old mouse that most companies supply
on-site. Get yourself a nice Logitech Trackman or a Kensington Expert Mouse and feel the
For only $2000-$3000, you can have
computing power equivalent to systems that companies paid $20,000-$30,000 for only five
years ago, $200,000-$300,000 for fifteen years ago, and couldn't get at any price
twenty-five years ago.
Operating a home business is hard work,
and it takes time and effort and talent to make it successful. But if you have those, with
a little money and a little luck, there has never before been a better time for going into
business when your business is done with a computer.
by Tom W. Shinder M.D.
Thomas W. Shinder, M.D., M.C.P. is a
neurologist-turned-computer systems engineer who practiced medicine in Texas, Oregon and
Arkansas before moving to his present home in the Dallas-Fort Worth, Texas metropolitan
E-mail Tom at:
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