Far too many tech companies are missing out on the rewarding female market because they believe women will buy any tech gizmo manufactured in solid pink and/or dotted with daisies. For consumer technology to be inclusive of its audience, we must learn how to create and market tech products that women really want. Technology companies too often solidify their marketing blunders by resorting to sexist slogans or dumbing down features to appeal to female consumers. Product designers and marketers know they must target women because females control approximately $20 trillion in annual consumer spending worldwide. Women earn more higher-education degrees than men, start new businesses at a quicker rate, and their earning power is growing faster than men's. Women now make up more than half of Twitter users and Facebook subscribers. Even so, the tech industry remains male dominated. Its culture of speedy product development means few companies take the time to truly understand women, including their lifestyles and needs. Instead, they resort to stereotypes, assuming women aren't early tech adopters or are almost incapable of understanding the prospect of consumer technology.
Smart companies design their tech with women's needs in mind first--not so they can market it as a women's product but so they get a better product for all their users -- because women are your most demanding customers, with a longer checklist of needs and higher expectations. Men tend to focus on a product's specifications and performance while women will holistically consider the relationship they will have with the product--its benefits, uses, maintenance, and repair needs. Marketers frequently assume "women" are one homogeneous market â€“ not true. The female consumer could be the Millennial, the empty nester, the busy mom, the athlete, or the executive leader. Products must address the unique demands of each group and to do that successfully, you have to understand those women before you design for them. Companies need to understand who they are, and what are their emotions and values.
We should not only speak to and understand the female consumer, but also put women in charge of the design process. Men hold more than three-quarters of all computer-related jobs in the United States, and they make up 72 percent of corporate CEOs. It is one thing to get input from women by asking wives, assistants, or even other designers in the office but to truly avoid the drawbacks of creating a product unappealing to women, companies need to put women in charge of the process.
We must not only fully understand women as tech consumers, but also normalize their roles in IT as a tech team player or leader. According to IDC, the percentage of women in major leadership positions grew from 21 percent to 24 percent between 2018 and 2019. This is progress because having women in senior leadership positions can positively impact female employee engagement and retention. Organizations where 50 percent or more senior leadership positions are held by women are more likely to provide equal pay, and female employees are more likely to stay with the company longer than a year, reporting higher job satisfaction and feeling the company is trustworthy. Still, much more needs to be done. The IDC report found that 54 percent of men said they felt it was likely that they would be promoted to executive management in their company. Meanwhile, only 25 percent of women said the same, noting a lack of support, self-confidence and mentorship as well as feeling the need to prove themselves more than men to get promoted.
As companies are more aware of their diverse female consumer base for technology, it is important to incorporate women in the design process. Laptops do not need to be pastel pink to appeal to women, and not all women are interested in motion-detection kitchen faucets. Females must be normalized both as tech consumers and tech employee-leaders for there to be equal opportunity in the workplace and enhanced product development in consumer technology that market to women without stereotypical, oversimplified mantras.
Opinions expressed by the author are not necessarily those of WITI.
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