Why are women slower to adopt technology?


Date: 31 October 2011

Mind the gap sign

Is the technology gender gap growing?

The 'gender gap' is something which gets analysed in almost every aspect of our lives. The age old 'battle of the sexes' rears its head time and time again – and now it has cropped up in the world of technology.

Even in the twenty-first century it seems notable trends develop between males and females. Recent reports suggest that men are more likely to engage earlier with new technologies such as tablet computers and that they use mobile broadband more than women.

Questions about women and technology

If you resist dismissing these tendencies as irrelevant, you'll see that they raise some interesting questions. Why aren't more women engaging with new technology? And, if they do, why does it seem to happen long after men do?

Are us women fearful of newer devices? Or do we simply like to stick to what we know works?

Women and smart phones

When the first smart phones hit the market, the majority of users were men. They were the first to jump on the bandwagon and it is only now that that ownership is balancing.

Even women who went against the trend and purchased a smart phone were reportedly less likely to use the mobile broadband available through it.

Overall, around 10% more men are accessing the internet, regardless of what device they are using. And while 10% may sound like a small margin, it is large enough to be significant, highlighting a gender gap in the way we use technology.

In fact, only one statistic bucks the trend: 61% of people in the US using e-readers (like Amazon's Kindle) are female – and that mirrors the higher proportion of women who buy physical books.

The women and technology stereotype

These statistics seem to clarify the stereotypical view of how women engage with technology, in that we use it simply to assist or enhance life's daily activities. Only 35% of women are likely to go online to relax, whereas for men it's 45%.

Indeed, men are more likely to use technology for pleasure as well as work – and they are unarguably quicker to embrace new technology.

Take tablet computers. The iPad's release in 2010 was one of the year's major technology stories, and young wealthy male professionals were amongst the first to try the new device in the workplace.

Women professionals were more cautious about these new tablet computers. For instance, 80% of female directors openly said they were concerned about requests from employees (PDF link) to bring devices into the workplace.

What does it mean for women and technology?

So, these statistics appear to tell us that men are quicker than women to embrace and engage with new technology. But that doesn't mean women are fearful of new devices.

I am a woman and I embrace lots of new technology. I know many professional women who do the same. It's important not to over-analyse statistics like these, or be too quick to make judgments from them.

They reinforce the stubborn gender gap in technology which seems to be pretty well cemented already – perhaps making it a self-fulfilling prophecy.

But maybe it's simple: when it comes to technology, for the majority of women it's not a priority unless the device makes day-to-day tasks easier. For now, we're happy to leave the job of figuring out if certain devices are worth using to the men.

Frances McVeigh works for Zabisco. Read the Zabisco blog.

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