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Fun screens out work for women

Aug 13. 2018
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By The Nation

WOMEN use mobile phones mainly for fun, rather than for business, according to a survey that also finds social media is as popular as ever, despite talk of digital detoxing.

The “Tech Trends: Women” survey, conducted by Telenor Group, looked into professional women’s habits and values with regards to mobile connectivity.

“By and large, the women we talked to say that the mobile phone is one of the tools that helps them shape how they balance their personal lives with their professional lives,” said Erica Gibson, vice president of product management and user research at Telenor Group.

“The mobile phone seems to be less of a leash to the office than we expected. We are seeing well-educated, professional women turn to mobile devices for entertainment, maintaining personal connections, and providing a break from the rigours of their busy lives.

“The survey has given us more crystallised and very useful insights into female digital habits and user needs. We wanted to talk to women about this because we know that they hold large stakes in connectivity and access to information and services, which they make clear in this survey.”

The survey was conducted on a sample of 1,300 professional women aged 25-40 in Scandinavia and Asia (Malaysia, Myanmar, Norway, Singapore, Sweden and Thailand). This was supplemented by in-depth interviews with women in Norway, Singapore and Thailand. The markets surveyed represent a range of economies, socio-political systems, stages of industrial development and mobile penetration.

All six markets share the use of social media, personal messenger apps, music and news as respondents’ most frequent mobile activities. Between 50 per cent and 80 per cent of women in all markets say they use social media apps most out of any other mobile features, despite much talk of social media fatigue.

Messaging apps is a close second in most markets, but stands out as the top choice in Singapore. Reading news is highly ranked in Norway and Myanmar, and listening to music is Sweden and Singapore’s third highest activity. Despite the popularity of Wi-Fi calling, women in Malaysia and Myanmar highlight personal phone calls in their three most frequent mobile activities.

Interestingly, when looking at top mobile activities, the survey found that the degrees to which the personal supersedes the professional on mobile phones shifts as you head from West to East. In Norway and Sweden, women list work among their least frequent mobile uses, and try to completely shut out the office in the evening. Women in Southeast Asia allow work to percolate through more of their personal time. Women in Thailand and Myanmar, however, both list work-related messaging and phone calls as fourth and sixth most frequent activities.

When it comes to feelings associated with mobile usage, women in all six markets were aligned in feeling “entertained” and “connected to the world” when using their mobiles. Interestingly for the third choice, Swedish women say they felt “addicted” while Myanmar women report being “optimistic”. Malaysia, Norway, Singapore and Thailand all share feeling “relaxed” while on their mobile. Feelings such as “depressed”, “stressed”, “overwhelmed”, and “exposed” were least frequently identified across the board.

To shed light on what happens after office hours, respondents were also asked about their last three mobile activities before bedtime and in the middle of the night. Social media came in first across the board, but subsequent options vary greatly.

Ten percent of Swedes cite a midnight online shopping habit. Women in Norway and Myanmar read news as a primary before-bed activity, though in Norway, 1 in 5 admits that “news” shifts to “reading gossip and tabloids” as the night wears on. Not allowed before bed or in the middle of the night are work activities – the least frequent undertakings mentioned by women in all markets.

‘Phone-off’ locations 

Professional women use their mobile a lot – but there are situations in which they will disconnect. Women in all six markets say job interviews are among their top “phone off” locations. More than 90 per cent of Scandinavian women say funerals are inappropriate for mobiles, compared to a quarter of Asian women.

The situations where women keep their mobiles on speak volumes, as the mobile permeates previously “sacred” social and private settings. Women in all markets are more accepting of phones in “romantic situations” than they are of phones on during job interviews or on aircraft. Thai and Myanmar women are the most unopposed to phones in intimate settings (only 13 per cent and 3 per cent say “turn them off”) while 39 per cent of Swedes are against mixing phones and romance. Scandinavians are unopposed to mobiles in the loo, while Asians turn them off.

As Telenor Group has committed to supporting the UN Sustainable Development Goal #10 – Reduced Inequalities, the survey also asked women for their thoughts on how mobile connectivity could address societal or economic issues. “Information and knowledge sharing” is cited as the most important way mobiles can do this, according to about sixty percent of women in Norway, Malaysia, Singapore, Sweden and Thailand – and 80 per cent of women in Myanmar. Mobile banking is identified by women in all markets as avenues through which mobile technology can solve societal challenges – cited by 7 in 10 Swedes, 6 in 10 Norwegians, and about half of Thais, Singaporeans and Malaysians.

“We found some interesting, anomalous answers from individual markets as well,” said Gibson, “A quarter of Thai and Swedish women singled out ‘loneliness’ as something mobiles can mitigate, and Singaporean women, in a country known for safety, reported that mobiles can help with personal safety.”

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