Bring on the tech gear, but don’t make it girly: That’s what women want, according to a survey released today.
Just 9 percent of the fair sex want products that “look feminine,” like a pink Playstation or Hello Kitty keyboards. The remaining 91 percent seek something sleek and sophisticated, more boardroom than teenage bedroom. The data comes from a study, done by the advertising firm Saatchi & Saatchi, of 750 British women age 24 to 45.
The agency says its study indicates it’s time for tech companies to go beyond the pink ghetto.
“There are clearly some smart, forward-thinking marketers in the industry, but for some reason, when it comes to targeting women, things haven’t moved on,” said Belinda Parmar, planning director at Saatchi. “Most women feel cheated when they walk into stores or see ads with baby-pink, diamante-encrusted products.”
But that doesn’t discourage “lady geeks,” as the study dubbed them, from getting the gear. These “empowered” women, 37 percent of the total, owned an average of six devices, including a digital camera, desktop or laptop, multimedia mobile phone, MP3 player, digital TV and handheld game console. Overall, U.K. women own only slightly fewer tech items (11 percent) than men.
“What’s fascinating to me about this research is the index of just how much technology women own,” said Dr. Genevieve Bell, resident anthropologist at Intel. “Yet we still have these ideas about women and technology that are clearly out of step with the realities of the marketplace.”
Bell, for whom women are arguably the “original early adopters” thanks to domestic tech, said these results echo data she and researchers in Intel’s digital-home team collected, which showed that women adopt technologies — such as Wi-Fi — at a faster clip than men.
That doesn’t mean, however, that today’s consumer electronics stores are tech-friendly to chicks: More than half the women in the study reported leaving a tech store without buying because they couldn’t find what they wanted.
Software engineer and London’s Geek Girl Dinner founder Sarah Blow knows a few women like the ones in Saatchi’s “daunted” category — the 28 percent of the total who feel intimidated by technology.
“The main ways that I’ve helped women become more tech-savvy is to explain the technologies in simple and easy-to-understand terms,” Blow said. “It’s about understanding what the user needs and how they intend to use the product, not what a product is capable of doing.”
More often than not, tech stores assume females are uninformed and oblivious to technology, Blow says. The result? Women buy less tech. The survey says “daunted” women spend 35 percent less than their tech-savvy counterparts, resulting in a 600-million pound (or $1.2-billion) spending gap yearly. Jupiter analysts who worked on the study consider that figure conservative.
The study’s authors, as well as other researchers, agree on the key to upgrading women tech users from cowed to confident: Simplify, simplify, simplify. “Demands on women’s time tend to be greater,” said Sydney-born Bell. “If you wanted to design technology that would appeal to women, it needs to work flawlessly the first time out of the box and every time thereafter. They don’t have time to faff around.”