Chiqui Escareal-Go is the President and Chief Service Strategist of Mansmith and Fielders, Inc.
IN MY NOVICE attempt to wear a different lens as a student of anthropology (which is a second graduate course I am pursuing at the University of the Philippines), I have decided to zero in on gender as a research focus for most of the papers I am required to submit this semester. Since I do not have any background in the social sciences, this focus will hopefully shorten my learning curve especially as it is an area close to my heart and where I can bring in my knowledge of marketing, business and entrepreneurship.
This new adventure has led to me to many interesting pieces of information about women from international sources while doing my research. I became interested in the internet usage of women, only because I have been attending conferences and talks lately where many topics had been on social media.
In these conferences, I came across statistics on the increasing usage of smartphones and tablets versus laptops and PCs, or new trivia as to which country has the most smartphone users as well as age demographics of internet customers. For example, China has the most number of smartphone owners while the Philippines is second only to Korea when it comes to tablet ownership. Other new learnings include how young people (ages 16-24) still dominate internet usage or those in the 45-54 bracket access the internet mainly on their smartphones. Until my anthropology exposure, I failed to notice whether the experts of these studies had mentioned any statistics based on gender or not, and if they did, what was the emphasis?
Why do I feel this piece of information is important besides, maybe, my natural bias for the topic? Did I all of a sudden feel there is a gender issue here because anything technology is often stereotyped as masculine domain? Then again, what might this gender-sensitivity issue mean to marketers and businesspeople?
In an online post by Alexis Madrigal, senior editor of The Atlantic last June 2012, he revealed that women are the dominant users of various internet technologies. He stated this to refute (in part) the misconception that males, ages 18 to 35, are a tech company’s “most coveted prize” and why, despite the numbers there remains a “massive gender gap in technology.”
Madrigal quoted a research done by Genevieve Bell that showed what seems to be already obvious women behaviors: women spent more time on their phones texting, talking and using Skype, or used more social networks and other internet-enabled devices such as readers, healthcare devices or GPs. a more quantitative fact in the research was that western women used the internet 17% more than their male counterparts. (In another study done earlier in 2010, comScore found that across the world, women spent more time using social networking sites by as much as 30%).
I thought these facts were evident until Madrigal stated another fact that brings forth much insight: “… 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?”
So my anthropology theories on kinship and matrilineality kicked in (on a superficial level for now I admit), as I tried to make sense of this otherwise ordinary piece of information. I began to wonder if many companies’ attempts to communicate with their target markets using social media and other technology have considered this very important understanding.
Some thoughts on why internet communication seems to be predominantly male-oriented include the (relative) lack of women in boards of venture capital firms or start-ups, in electronics and internet companies as well as the seeming overemphasis that the internet was created by men, for men.
At present, we may come across many internet campaigns targeting women in areas that are clearly for women: fashion, baby products, healthcare and skincare, etc. Perhaps in the future, when we get our statistics right, we will see more focused campaigns (online or otherwise), for example, of men’s briefs targeted to wives and mothers who buy for their husbands or sons, not to mention more online communication efforts directed toward women.
In a country where a Supreme Court nominee, who happens to be a single woman, is asked a question on why she is not married, one realizes the need to raise awareness on gender sensitivity, and for marketers, what this will all mean when imagining what the future will be like with more women as customers of technology.
Ms. Go is the president of Mansmith and Fielders, Inc. She will be running a seminar-program on Fundamentals of Marketing for New Marketing and Non-Marketing Professionals on Aug. 14-15. For inquiries or feedback please email email@example.com.