20th November 2013

When a feminist issue became a commercial issue – how leaving women out of the tech is not just patronising, but bad business sense!

Women in techIf you’re already in the tech industry, the subject of “women in tech” is undoubtedly a familiar one. The existence of such a phrase incites reactions similar to the phrase “women in business”, with a divide between those that resent the need for this sub group, and those that champion the spotlighting of a niche that’s in desperate need to grow.

It seems absurd that women are universally neglected when it comes to tech. An industry that is fast evolving from geek – to geek chic – to sexy is still marketed predominantly towards men. Although there are some great female tech writers who continue to create quality tech content that’s accessible to both men and women, from Stuff’s Libby Plummer to Macworld’s Karen Haslam, there’s still a lack of dedicated tech articles in women’s lifestyle magazines.

Fewer than 2% of pages in last month’s women’s magazines refer to anything tech-related

Lady Geek @LadyGeek – an agency that campaigns to change the way tech and gaming companies speak to women and end the ‘pink it & shrink it’  approach, released this week the results of its analysis of the month’s women’s magazines and exposed a near absence of technology topics or gadgets. They found that on average, fewer than 2% of pages refer to anything tech-related, and not a single page in November’s editions has an article primarily about technology. Belinda Parmar, founder of social enterprise Little Miss Geek (#LittleMissGeek) and the CEO of Lady Geek wrote in her article for the Guardian about how women’s magazine are “perpetuating stereotypes about women and tech and it’s dated, lazy and damaging”. Yes, women can choose to read specific tech magazines, but there’s a targeted audience of those magazines and it’s – far from shockingly – male. With women’s dressed in gadgets in an effort to turn the industry more sexy, it’s overwhelmingly exclusive. Just googling images of “women in tech”, I was inundated with pictures of mobile phones and tablets propped up against pink stilettos, or group shots of “the hottest women in tech”. But far from being a feminist issue, this is commercial.

80% of all tech decisions are influenced by women yet only 3% of all advertising creative directors are women

Women are earning, spending, and influencing spending at a greater rate than ever before and account for $7 trillion in consumer and business spending in the United States, and over the next decade, they will control two thirds of consumer wealth. Women make or influence 85% of all purchasing decisions, and purchase over 50% of traditional male products, including automobiles, home improvement products and consumer electronics. With 80% of all tech decisions influenced by women, why are women’s magazines so reluctant to feature tech unless it looks good on a shopping page? With more women than men buying smartphones, and the consumerisation of tech and gadgets empowering both individuals and companies, it seems that the publishing industry is missing a trick.

Purchasing Power not Driven by Pink Pocket-sized Products

As @LaurenGoode highlights in AllThingsD, both new report from Parks Associates and a recent Nielson study show, the increase in women’s purchasing power is not limited to technology and is driven by a variety of economic factors. Another issue which sits firmly in this gender divide is the manner of marketing tech to women – as Belinda Parmar terms, “the pink it and shrink it” tactic- which seems like a patronising and blind hijacking of the growing synergy between tech and style. It’s true, tech is becoming fashionable, but it’s hugely assumptive to presume that the increase in women’s spending on tech is solely driven by aesthetics and completely ignores how tech is empowering the ever day person’s life- enabling people to work remotely, multi-task on the go and align and update all their documents thanks to software and apps such as Cloud and Evernote. Even getting around is easier thanks to sat nav apps like CoPilot Premium (one of our clients).

The facts and figures speak for themselves- this is not merely a feminist issue, this is an economic issue. Women’s purchasing power is increasing overall, not just in tech, and ignoring or patronising such a huge and powerful section of the market is a massive oversight on the part of tech companies, retailers and publishers.