The Technology Gender Gap

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AT Home Tech reader and tech enthusiast, techgirllaura and I have been exchanging facts, opinions and personal observations about the consumer electronics industry and women's purchasing habits. She's correctly stated that women are in fact the primary purchasers of consumer electronics today, outspending men US$55 billion to US$41 billion, as supported by figures from the Consumer Electronics Association (CEA). This discussion sprung from a post about how important colour is to home theater screen purchasing decisions, but quickly morphed into an interesting discussion about gender and the consumer electronics landscape...

Women are dominating and shaping the mobile industry, are becoming a sizable demographic in many categories of video gaming/online gaming, and are increasingly influencing the spectrum of industrial design in the realm of consumer electronics. But what women tend to purchase, which particular technologies are coveted, and how they use these consumer devices can be much different from their male counterparts.

It still seems evident that men and women purchase product with different standards and emphasis, and that certain features are generally more important to one gender opposed to the other. A recent study done by Hitachi and KRC found that 32% of women would want a 50-inch or 60-inch screen compared to 43% of men, and that seven in ten women are not comfortable explaining HDTV technology compared to only about half of men. A Panasonic survey stated that 70% were interested in purchasing an HDTV screens of 50-inch and above or medium (37-50 inches) screen sizes, while 76 percent of women lean more towards a smaller size screen. What this seems to illustrate is that although the HDTV technology is being adopted on a near equal scale by gender, the motivating factors of purchase and interest remain markedly different. Women seem to be attracted by screen size and the more aesthetic form factor of flat panel HDTVs, while men seem more informed and aware of the underlying technology and...surprise, surprise...focused upon screen size.

What I'm also curious to see is statistics that break down purchases of larger, more expensive consumer electronics by gender, marital status and age. Personal observation reveals that most large flat panel HDTV sets and home theater sound systems purchased by women are those who are married or are in a relationships; I have yet to walk into a single woman's home where there is a large screen purchased by and for herself, but that might not be the case in just a few years. I've also noted that many of my female friends are purchasing Nintendo Wii's, cell phones, digital cameras, iPods, iPhones and other personal consumer devices all for themselves in droves, and in numbers greater than many of my male friends. Statistics and polls rarely tell the whole story, but maybe we're in a cultural transition where technology has democratized specific categories once off limits to women and also created whole new ones that will be defined and dominated by women. Soon enough, it might be the wives dragging their husbands to Fry's Electronics. What a wonderful world that will be.
Gregory

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