08/11/2011 10:48 am ET | Updated Oct 11, 2011

The Technological Gender Divide

Women play the games and use the gadgets to transform their lives, so why is the technology industry still marketing to them as if they slept with fuchsia-clad, faux-diamond-studded Barbie dolls tucked under their arms?


Women are smart, economically powerful and increasingly active in the way they look to technology to enhance their lives. This isn't my opinion, it's fact. Look at the figures: according to research we conducted with Forrester, over half of women attempting to make technological purchases walk out of shops (Source: Forrester Research 2010) because they simply can't find what they are looking for. The missed opportunity here is calculated at £0.6 billion per year in the UK alone (Source: Forrester Research, 2010)

The more you look at women's market share, the more baffling the industry's approach becomes. Out of every 10 gadgets, four are bought by women, and we're talking high-end consoles and digital cameras, not steam irons or hair curlers! Furthermore, in the 25-34 age bracket, women make up the lion's share of all gamers at over 50% (Source: YouGov/Lady Geek Feb 2011). So the question remains, why is the industry still trying to palm them off with patronizing, dumbed-down products?

This question is particularly relevant given the lessons that ought to have been learnt from Dell's disastrous Della website (a site that gave you recipe tips with email suggestions). After all, money always talks, and with such a cash cow waiting to be milked, millions must surely have been spent on expert consultants examining just what it is that "women really want."

Sadly wherever the money's been spent, it hasn't made any marked impact on the products themselves, where stereotype continues to prevail. Take HTC's new Bliss phone, with its calming wallpapers, calorie counter, shopping apps and irritating 'charm indicator' that flashes when you get a message. When this was being designed, someone really should have taken a step back and asked just who really wants a Barbie charm hanging off their phone.

Compare this to the eminently masculine stylings of the Motorola Droid 3 phone and its "it's not a princess, it's a robot" tagline, and you get the picture. Instead of marketing to women (and men) as the complex, informed and fundamentally varied customers they really are, the battle lines have been set out from a 1970s template, with Android "dudes" on one side, and glitz-fed bauble babes on the other.

To frame a complex issue in the simplest of terms, women want smart devices that enhance their lives. They don't want to be bamboozled by jargon but nor do they respond favorably to being marketed to like pre-teens cooing at the latest Justin Bieber add-on. Frankly, the current approach smacks of marketing so lazy it needs its pulse checked.

To end on a bitter-sweet note, consider the iPhone PMS SOS Betty Crocker app, which sought to cure pre-menstrual tension through cocoa-laden product vouchers. What we are witnessing here is a marketing approach that is perilously hard to swallow, and that is a reality the industry is simply going to have to digest.

@belindaparmar is the founder of @ladygeektv. Please join the Lady Geek's campaign to end the stereotypes in the tech industry and make technology more appealing to women and young girls.