I was shopping in a mall the other day and a man came up to me holding a portable mobile phone charger. I had been thinking about getting one for a couple of months so I stopped to let him attempt to sell it to me. I was considering buying it after all.
He started his pitch.
“Hello mam, can I stop you for a second to show you this brand new invention.”
My thoughts: Well it’s not really brand new, but ok.
He went on: “Do you have an iPhone?” I do. “Do you like to talk to your many friends on Facebook or play Angry Birds?”
My thoughts: What does it matter?
“You can keep this product on the go to charge it at any time! It’s just the size of a lipstick so it fits easily in your handbag and it comes in five colours!”
That last statement really irked me. Yes I wear lipstick and yes I like having accessories, such as jewellery, in different colours but simply telling me that this portable charger comes in pink is not going to make me suddenly buy it!
It’s actually really patronising. I asked him if it could charge other types of phones, how long it would charge for, did they have other options that could store more energy in them etc. He just brushed my questions aside and started demonstrating how the product can fit into the handbag they had on display. There was even a charger propped up next to a lipstick to hammer home the fact that it was thin and portable. Yea, I already got that bit…
He even decided to inform me that I could go on Facebook for longer and get higher scores on games if I bought this product.
I just wanted to grab him by the shoulders and tell him that marketing a product to women does not need to mean appealing to fashion, beauty, celebrities or an ignorance with technology. We know a lot more than the stereotypes suggest!
The last two companies I worked for had female CEOs. This wasn’t a factor affecting my decision to join the companies, it’s just how it is.
Women regularly outperform men in school exams. However, many women are still not uptaking science and technology careers like men are.
What’s interesting to me is the merging of industry fields and what the blossoming of a proliferation of technology means.
I completed a communications degree and majored in journalism. To many, it was seen as an arts and humanities field and yes, it did involve a lot of knowledge from English and Media subjects at school.
But editing audio documentaries and filming TV shows in studios requires you to quickly upskill in computer applications.
As soon as I started full time work in my field of being a writer, I was also required to learn about search engine algorithms and analytics data. In my next job I had to learn HTML, CSS and SQL.
The job after that I had to learn CSS, JQuery along with Photoshop and video editing.
In other industries, many people will suddenly need to crunch big numbers to manage budgets and get rapidly upskilled in advanced Excel (conditional formatting anyone?).
And whether you are traditionally an ‘arts’ student or a ‘science’ student, it’s inevitable that you’ll have to cross-skill to learn both. You’ll learn technical sides of your role but you’ll also have learn how to communicate the work to others.
My point is that I believe as various technology (cloud computing, working from mobile, internet of things etc) takes a more prominent role in the workplace and in day-to-life, people will just become naturally technically savvy, especially from primary school. Children use iPads from Year 1 these days and they are digital natives. There is no question that both men and women who have grown up in this environment will be ‘tech-savvy’ in their careers.
There is likely to be many more women in programming too. When I took a computer programming subject in sixth form there were two girls in my class, and I don’t want to sound like I’m skiting, but we passed all of the assignments and many of the boys didn’t. Perhaps this was because we were more patient when it came to the frustrations of buggy code.
With this change occurring, it’s now unnecessary for salesmen to market “colourful, exciting” mobile and computer products to women in a manner as though it’s completely new to them.
No matter what a woman’s profession is: engineer, writer, teacher, hairdresser, actor, dancer, editor, receptionist, comms manager, CEO, CFO, mechanic, accountant, soldier or police officer – you can bet she is more technically minded then you might believe – especially in the next generation coming through.
A mall full of women in nice outfits is also a mall full of extreme diversity. We’ve all come from different countries, different upbringings and we have different careers. A queue to a changing room might hold a student, an engineer, a scientist, a travel agent and a singer. Some will be mothers. Some will not want to be mothers.
I believe it is unnecessary to segregate women and men to different markets if the product you are selling is not gender-specific.
Just because you’ve seen me walk past and I’m wearing a dress and holding a handbag, it doesn’t make me a ‘typical slightly technology-ignorant woman’. And just because I like coding, sci-fi films and metal music, it does not make me any less of a ‘typical woman’. There is just no such thing.
So when you go to rattle off your sales pitch to a woman, don’t ever presume she has less technical ability than a man.
Start now because that pitch definitely won’t fly with the next generation!