Technology: is it different for girls?

Mon 09 Nov 2009






Speaker guest post by Belinda Parmar.

Women play more games than men and buy just as many gadgets. So why are they consistently patronised by technology companies?

I am frustrated. I am bored. I feel patronised. PC World is telling me my world is pink (it has not been pink since I was 7) and I need a new laptop to match my outfit (it would never even occur to me to match my outfit with my technology). Samsung is asking me, “What Colour is my Life?” (hello?) and Dell is telling me that technology is like candy (do me a favour).

I am a 35-year-old professional woman with my own home. I am educated, fairly tech literate and, most importantly, I have cash to spend. Plenty of cash to spend, on technology that will make my life easier, more creative and fun.

Out of every ten gadgets bought in the UK, four are now bought by women. And, before you ask, we are not talking about fridges and washing machines. No, these are high-end items such as HD TVs, games consoles and smart phones. And there are more games being played by women than men between the ages of 25-34.

I am not alone in feeling patronised or alienated by technology and consumer electronic brands.

I recently conducted some research for Forrester. This highlighted that one third of all British women do not feel connected to a single technology brand. Over half of all women walk out of shops because they cannot find what they are looking for.

This missed opportunity is calculated to be worth £0.6 billion per year. The technology industry is where the automotive industry was 20 years ago – nervous boys at the school dance who do not quite know what to do or say to women. They end up leading with two left feet.

So why do technology companies think that pinking up and dumbing down their marketing is the way to get professional, well educated women to part with their cash? Why do they treat young girls and women alike – as an afterthought? Why are companies not researching “what women really want” and getting advice from expert consultants?

How can we help technology companies understand what women want?

Many technology brands believe that the way to a woman’s purse is to make her feel “special”, and have aimed to achieve this by giving women their “own” space, site or product. Dell’s disastrous Della website, which handed out technological advice alongside recipe tips and fashion articles, was shut down within weeks. Carphone Warehouse, Dixons and Comet (Comet Angels) have all had their share of “initiatives” and women’s only days, all with the aim of helping women turn the telly on. All, one assumes, with a glass of Prosecco held in their manicured, nail-varnished hands.

No woman wants to be a target with an overt “female friendly” message. Being singled out as different is as off-putting today as it was when you were singled out at school. Nor do women want to be stereotyped or bamboozled by obscure jargon.

It is ironic, given its widespread reputation for untarnished machismo, but the BBC’s Top Gear has democratised cars. It might be a legacy to make Jeremy Clarkson flinch, but he has helped to make cars accessible to women.

Once purely the domain of men, the programme now has nearly as many female viewers as male, thanks largely to being both playful and light-hearted. It stands for unadulterated honesty and entertainment, looking at how people in the real world think and relate to their cars.

In September this year, the Harvard Business Review stated that women now represent a bigger market opportunity than India and China combined. Technology brands must put an end to these clumsy marketing strategies and put money and time behind understanding how real women in the real world engage with technology.

Women are no longer the second sex. We are the more profitable sex.

Belinda Parmar is the founder of Lady Geek, which helps technology companies understand and sell to women. Belinda would love you to have your say on how technology companies are talking to women by filling out a short survey on the Lady Geek site. Follow Belinda Parmar on Twitter: @belindaparmar


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