02/21/2011 05:43 pm ET Updated May 25, 2011

Mars and Venus: Tech Edition

In 1992, John Gray put terms to the differences between the sexes with his book "Men are from Mars, Women are from Venus." The differences have been known from time immemorial, but he focused on recognizing, understanding, and using that knowledge to improve relationships between men and women.

Since then, a couple of big changes have come to our society - the differences between the sexes have started to blur in some areas, and technology has taken root in our everyday lives. But how exactly do men and women differ in their approach to technology and its importance in their lives? Can our understanding of these differences propel our technology to new heights?

Going into this article, I had what I thought was a good feel for the differences, but I wanted to test those theories against some real world data. I conducted a very small, very informal survey of some of my friends and family to get a little feel for how others, a mix of both men and women, approach technology. (Disclaimer: This sample is NOT statistically significant, and your mileage and experience may vary)

I asked five basic questions:

  1. What is your most important tech gadget (what one item could you not live without)?
  2. How do you choose a tech gadget (what approach do you take, or what general qualities do you seek out in choosing a gadget to purchase)?
  3. When you select a new cell phone, what features or qualities are you looking for?
  4. Do you own one or more video game consoles? Which one(s)? Which is your favorite? Why?
  5. What video games do you like to play and why?

In the limited time available, I only received a few responses. They tended to support my original thesis - there is still a lot of difference between men and women when it comes to technology.

In general, guys seem to have the same approach that they do with cars - more power, more macho, more oomph! Gals like to be more practical - how will the item help me, improve my life, or otherwise benefit me. My findings were almost stereotypical in nature.

The general response on both sides of the aisle to the "most important" question was the cell phone. According to the Cellular Telephone Industry Association (CTIA), as of December 2009, there were over 285 Million wireless subscriber connections, or 91% or U.S. residents have a cell phone. Of these, almost 23% of respondents came from wireless-only households. Is it any wonder that the cell phone is the most important gadget for most people?

However, that is where the similarities diverge. Men want a phone that they can stick in their pocket, and that just works - for making and receiving phone calls. While I know plenty of guys that live with their phones in constant use, they are typically using it for business purposes - almost strictly utilitarian. They tend to stick with basic, inexpensive phones, or phones that benefit their business needs.

Women on the other hand, tend to see their phone as the center of their lives. They talk on it, sure, but they also text, update Facebook, tweet, and organize their lives. Their phone becomes an extension of their social space. They document their lives with photos and videos via their phone's camera, and personalize it with wallpapers and ringtones. The iPhone is a popular selection among gals.

For the other part of my research, I wanted to look into differences in video gaming. According to the Entertainment Software Association, the PC and video game market is almost evenly split between men and women (60% guys, 40% gals), with 68% of U.S. households playing. For online gaming, women nudge up to 43%. How do the differences play out with my survey?

Women tend to gravitate towards the Wii as opposed to the Xbox or Playstation. According to Nintendo America President Reggie FIls-Aime, almost 12 million video gamers are women, and over 9 million of them have chosen the Wii as their platform. Women tend to be more casual gamers, which is the market that the Wii was designed for.

My research bears this out. The entire Wii experience is centered around the concept of Social gaming with the Mii characters, and there are more family and activity-based games currently available for that platform. Again, as I found with the cell phone, the game system becomes another extension of their social and family lives. Puzzle, word and role playing/adventure games tend to rule here.

Guys, on the other hand, are almost stereotypical with their gravitation to the more powerful Xbox and Playstation consoles. They tend to like first person shooters and other action-based games like Grand Theft Auto, Gears of War, Halo and Bio Shock. They also like the sports games, like those based on the MLB and NFL. They like to spend their money in making their consoles more powerful, faster, and more enviable.

I went into this hoping to find that I was wrong in my assumptions, that there was less difference between the sexes when it came to tech. Unfortunately, my admittedly limited research did not meet my hopes. It seems there is still a wide chasm when it comes to technology and the sexes.

Here is where you come in... Let me hear about your experiences. Help me to prove that there really is not as much separation in the gender tech wars, or support my findings that there still is a big gap. Use the comment feature below to chime in. Tell me why I am right or wrong.

Other articles by Stephanie Vaughn Hapke: