An interesting piece from The Atlantic's Alex Madrigal points out that the coveted 18-34 male demographic is no longer the most important force in technology consumption and purchasing. He quotes Intel anthropologist and all-round awesomesauce dispenser Genevieve Bell's research, which shows that women lead tech adoption in "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, and 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?"
Of course, the neglect of women -- and other groups of systematically disenfranchised people, like gblt people and people of color -- is a recurring theme in the history of business. And periodically (generally in the midst of a recession that makes the previously unthinkable into the inevitable), some industry will figure out that there's a group of people whom they've ignored or held in contempt with a lot of money on their hands, and you get a new boom of targeted products, media and advertising. And exploitation, of course. Lots of exploitation.
Terry O'Reilly's "Age of Persuasion" podcast has done some good episodes on these turns in advertising history -- here's one on women, one on people of color, and one on gblt-targeted ads.
How can an industry get its market so wrong?
One huge reason is the relative lack of women at major venture capital firms, startups, electronics makers, and Internet companies. The other huge reason is the historical erasure of women's roles in the history of technology, as Xeni Jardin pointed out in response to a New York Times article that overemphasized the role men have played in the creation of the Internet. When you look around, it *seems* as if technology is by and for dudes, but the reality is much more complicated than that.
But even if you are the biggest sexist in Menlo Park, even if you believe that only men create technology, even if you are real-life Jack Donaghy hell bent on profits alone, you'd still want to change your approach to women as technology consumers. Follow the money and follow the users: you'll find yourself in a female-dominated landscape.
"So it turns out if you want to find out what the future looks like, you should be asking women. And just before you think that means you should be asking 18-year-old women, it actually turns out the majority of technology users are women in their 40s, 50s and 60s. So if you wanted to know what the future looks like, those turn out to be the heaviest users of the most successful and most popular technologies on the planet as we speak."
Sorry, Young Man, You're Not the Most Important Demographic in Tech