Sorry, Young Man, You're Not the Most Important Demographic in Tech

Despite companies' hamfisted, male-focused marketing efforts, women are the dominant users of a wide variety of new technologies.

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A young man contemplating his decreasing significance on the world stage (Shutterstock/Tracy Whiteside).

If you're a man between the ages of 18 and 35, you used to be tech industry's most coveted prize. You were the one who decided what products failed and what products succeeded. That's why companies like Asus tweet ridiculous, sexist stuff. That's one reason why less than 10 percent of venture capital-backed companies have female founders and there is a massive gender gap in tech. The technology industry's focus on men is reflexive and all too intuitive to the men who run the companies. And it's built on a plain wrong reading of the reality of the market.

I hate to tell you/us, but we're not as important as we thought. The body of evidence amassed by Intel researcher Genevieve Bell indisputably shows that men's role in technology adoption continues to be overstated. Here's a summary she gave of her work in a "Big Ideas" talk last month at Australia's Radio National:

It turns out women are our new lead adopters. When you look at internet usage, it turns out women in Western countries use the internet 17 percent more every month than their male counterparts. Women are more likely to be using the mobile phones they own, they spend more time talking on them, they spend more time using location-based services. But they also spend more time sending text messages. Women are the fastest growing and largest users on Skype, and that's mostly younger women. Women are the fastest category and biggest users on every social networking site with the exception of LinkedIn. Women are the vast majority owners of all internet enabled devices--readers, healthcare devices, GPS--that whole bundle of technology is mostly owned by women.

Sit with this for a minute. Let me break out the categories where women are leading tech adoption:

  • Internet usage
  • Mobile phone voice usage
  • Mobile phone location-based services
  • Text messaging
  • Skype
  • Every social networking site aside from LinkedIn
  • All Internet-enabled devices
  • E-readers
  • Health-care devices
  • GPS

Also, because women still are the primary caretakers of children in many places, guess who controls which gadgets the young male and female members of the family get to purchase or even use? More from Bell:

Furthermore, most consumers don't own devices just by themselves, those devices exist within social networks. Consumers share devices in families, so that a mobile phone is owned by multiple people, a laptop is used by multiple people, an email account is used by multiple people.

All this to say: there are clear business reasons for technology companies to focus their efforts on women. But few do. In fact, I'd contend that women are using these technologies despite the advertising and ethos of many tech and Internet companies.

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