Almost anyone with competent communication skills and internet access can become a web worker.
The degree of success, however, depends on one’s abilities, range of expertise, and even luck.
Does it follow that equal opportunities are given to web workers, regardless of where they are and what they look like?
In most web working ads I see, there is rarely an indication that a business cares where you live, unless physical meetings are an absolute necessity. Most of the time, there isn’t a requirement for tertiary education either – although it can help (the US Census Bureau notes that only 27% to 37% of teleworkers are college graduates). I also rarely hear of web workers who are asked to come in for a face-to-face interview. Just send in some samples or your portfolio and let your work speak for itself.
Because of this, it’s entirely possible that teleworking greatly reduces the chances of an online freelancer or entrepreneur being discriminated against or having less opportunities due to their race, educational background, location, and physical appearance. Suddenly, these things matter much less for web workers than it does for traditional office applicants. Today, a twenty-something college dropout from the UK, a middle-aged man in India, and a work-at-home mom from California all find themselves competing for the same job or selling competing services – and they don’t even have to come in wearing business attire for an interview.
However, this doesn’t mean that prejudices are completely done away with. When I was first applying for online writing work in 2003, some of my applications were turned down once the leads found out that I was Filipino. According to them, I “should of” not applied since I probably can’t write in English as “good” as they can. Right.
I’m hoping that things have changed since then and, with teleworking becoming more and more prevalent internationally, there’s a good possibility that it has.
For companies that allow their employees to telework, they see it as an opportunity to hire skilled workers in remote places, and give equal opportunities to disabled workers.
Telecommuting can assist employers in meeting government regulations relating to employing persons with disabilities, who may find daily commuting difficult. Telecommuting provides companies the opportunity to successfully integrate workers with disabilities and pregnant associates into the workplace.
Source: UF/IFAS EDIS document HR 021 Published April 2003
Despite this, discrimination still occurs, albeit differently – especially if some employees are allowed to telework, while others aren’t. In 1997, an employee filed a charge against her company, claiming that discrimination was the reason why she wasn’t allowed to telecommute. Although she did not win the case, the court ruled that the denial of telecommuting opportunities is equal to denial of a promotion. If this is so, it’s possible that other employees succeed in proving similar cases.
Do you think that online work allows for more equal opportunities and levels the playing field? Or is it the opposite? What has your experience been like?