Belinda Parmar is CEO of Lady Geek, an organisation that has been set up to challenge lazy stereotypes around women and technology – and help tech brands communicate more effectively with women. And, argues Lady Geek, the issue is just as much a commercial one as it is feminist. According to Lady Geek’s research, about 40 per cent of gadget purchases are made by women but only one per cent of women feel like manufacturers design their products with them in mind – a missed opportunity it seems.
So where does this disparity arise from? “The most common stereotype is falling into the 'pink it & shrink it' approach to marketing to women. What I mean by this is when technology companies think that all women love small pink gadgets and not all of us do. The reality is that four out of ten gadgets are now bought by women and we are not talking washing machines and fridges but high end gadgets such as smartphones and games consoles. Women are a huge financial untapped opportunity for companies,” explains Parmar.
“It's a complex problem that occurs due to a number of factors. It's partly men designing for men and unconscious bias. It's also companies not taking women's financial income and needs seriously.”
So it seems that brands most frequently fall into one of two extremes – patronising female technology consumers or just ignoring them completely. The painfully obvious and oft overlooked answer, then, is to acknowledge the growing army of female tech heads and to treat them as human beings.“I would advise all brands, not just tech brands to focus on Lady Geek's 3 pillars: Authenticity. Reassurance. Emotion,” argues Parmar. “These are the things women want.”
As well as working with brands and advertisers, Lady Geek is also supporting the next generation with sister project Little Miss Geek. By encouraging girls to get involved with coding and encouraging a curiosity about technology, Little Miss Geek hopes to equip girls with the skills they need to excel in the digital age. At present only 17 per cent of tech jobs are occupied by women – and in advertising, creativity and technology are becoming ever closer intertwined.
Things are changing, however, and there is a growing number of tech brands and advertisers getting it right. “The Google Chrome ad is a good example of a brand connecting emotionally and authentically. All the John Lewis ads are brilliant and deliver Authenticity, Reassurance and Emotion. Most tech brands get it wrong as they misunderstand the role of technology in women's lives. Women want tech to make a difference to their world, help them connect with their families – they are less bothered about knowing the difference between ROM and RAM!”