Women in tech. I hate to say it, but I am tired of hearing about women in tech.
As a female tech startup founder and angel investor, I am routinely asked how I feel about the lack of women in the technology sector. Frankly, I’m a bit tired of the question. It’s a topic worthy of discussion, but the conversation has grown far too narrow (as tends to happen in our Silicon Valley bubble).
While I have no doubt that the tech sector would benefit from more female founders, entrepreneurs and investors, we are missing a large part of the equation. Wishful thinking and arguing about female founders, entrepreneurs or gender roles is overriding recognition of the powerful role that the female consumer is already playing in technology.
Let’s talk not about women in tech. Let’s talk about women and tech. We need to shift the conversation and analyze how and why the female consumer is affecting technology innovation.
For starters, let’s focus our attention on the groundswell of female consumers impacting the web marketplace. If gender is at all an investment consideration, it is best utilized in conjunction with concrete market statistics:
• 3,330: the number of text messages the average teenage girl sends a month
• 67%: the percent of Gilt Groupe’s audience that are female
• 77%: the percent of Groupon subscription base that are female
• Your mother: the average social gamer (ok, it’s a 43 year old woman, but close enough)
A basic conclusion that one could draw here is that females are just as or even more enthusiastic than males about technology and the web. The difference is in the types of web products and services females embrace and how they put these to use in their daily lives. Here are a few more examples of female-driven web behavior and trends that represent rapid-growth market opportunities:
• Real World Bookmarking: Women have embraced bookmarking and sharing content, ideas and tips on the web. Services like Foodspotting appeal to the desire to bookmark a tangible item that we attach affinity to, then enable sharing with an extended network of online friends.
• Personal Relationship Management: Women have historically been attracted to online services that give them a productive platform for analyzing, discussing and improving their personal and romantic relationships. My own start-up, TheIceBreak (a game-like service that helps couples and singles create rewarding relationships), is planning to take full advantage of this demand.
• Self Analysis and Insights: Women are a strong driver of demand for the self-help book industry. Publishing has only begun its march into the nascent digital world and self-help will be a huge growth driver as more content is made available on the web.
• Families and Children: Women and men alike have begun to invest time and discretionary income in family-oriented technologies. Outgrown.it is a promising concept of an online exchange that lets parents trade outgrown children’s clothes or donate outgrown items to families in need.
I want to help women in technology, but a path to long-term success requires less charity (i.e. requiring at least one female on a founding team) and more common sense business practices. An excellent first step would be the creation of an investment fund or incubator program oriented around startups that target the female web consumer.
Please do not misunderstand me. I do not expect that creating a more attractive investment environment for female-targeted startups is the only answer for increasing female participation in technology. I do believe, however, that males and females alike are attracted to products and services familiar to them, and that addressing demand for female-oriented online products & services is an excellent step in motivating more women to take a step into the entrepreneurial arena.
It’s not charity to invest in a growing market with hard numbers. Let’s start there…