Dispatch from Internet Week: How Women Use Tech Differently

NEW YORK (MainStreet)—In today's society, we often strive for gender equality, but how marketers can recognize and capitalize upon gender differences was a hot topic at this year's Internet Week New York, which launched this Monday.

Although sweeping generalizations about certain groups can be dangerous, thinking about how men and women are different can often lead to greater sensitivity in the ways that companies approach their marketing toward a female demographic.

On Monday, Internet Week was home to a panel discussion that addressed this issue with a particular focus on how women use technology differently than men and what ramifications that has for marketers. Panelists included Shelley Zalis, CEO of Ipsos Open Thinking Exchange; Emily Crawford, Regional Sales Manager of U.S. Enterprise Sales at Cisco; Alice Han, Senior Designer/Product Lead at Zappos Labs; and Sarah Kramer, Global Managing Director at Starcom MediaVest.

Also see: How to Close the Gender Wage Gap

What Makes a Product Compelling for Women?

In a separate keynote address, James McQuivey, Ph.D., a principal analyst at Forrester Research, argued that women think about the ultimate use of technology, how it can help their own lives, rather than the impressive technical specifications. Instead of being spurred by an "Oh, shiny!" ethos, they're swayed by what the technology can do for them.

As Zalis said, "Women are not looking for tech for technology's own sake but rather for simplicity, usefulness."

Meanwhile, Han said that women look for intuitive designs. "I've seen a lot of research that women like things that are intuitive," she said. "That doesn't mean dumbed down; it just means women have less tolerance for bad user experiences, because we're multi-taskers."

According to Zalis, women are more visual and narrative-driven.

"Women also love visualization and stories, not just features on a checklist, but things that really let them see value in their lives," she said. "When you go to tech labs, some are run by women, and it's fascinating to see what they're working on versus what the men are working on. Many of the labs I've seen are working on things like how to bring books to life for kids, making them more friendly and engaging. That's in contrast to just gadgets and goggles."