Recently, over dinner, a male guest opined that women -- or, rather, "girls" -- don't really like gadgets, they only pretend to. I was too shocked to respond in the moment; I just tossed off a line about this being 2013. But it got me thinking.
Of the people I know, women, on average, use way more gadgets than men in their daily lives. Yet I could see why my male guest might think otherwise, the way most electronics are marketed. Men's magazines are filled with advertisements about the latest tech, whereas women's magazines tend to focus on shoes. But the fact of the matter is, more women buy and use gadgets than men.
Gadgets are defined by their novelty -– they're indulgences. While they ostensibly serve a useful function, they can easily be done without. The function they perform can be done manually, or you can get by with something less flashy and considerably cheaper. But the convenience factor –- as well as the cool factor -– tends to outweigh practicality.
I ran a mental list of the gadgets I use every day. Well, there's my smartphone, for a start. I'm a writer, and I need to be available to take assignments when they're offered. I need my laptop, to, you know, write them. My PlayStation, both for work and pleasure -- I might be reviewing a video game or film, or just catching up on a show on Netflix for a pop culture piece. Then there's all the stuff in the kitchen, like the coffee maker, slow cooker, blender...
I mean, consider the gadgetry in your household. The bulk of it is probably related to domestic tasks or beauty management. Things like breadmakers, wine coolers, vacuum cleaners, or blow dryers, hair straighteners, lash curlers are products aimed largely at women. When asking about the different gadgets my sister used, she also mentioned her breast pump –- ahem, something her husband was unlikely to pick up.
Gadgets can free up time, or simply be fun to use. "On the totally frivolous front," my friend Sarah said, "I have a pin cushion that is attached to a plastic wristband so I can wear it on my wrist while pinning things, and I have an egg separator which I adore but which performs a task that can easily be managed with an egg shell."
Home, beauty and childcare products have been marketed primarily to women since they were invented. But our love of gadgets extends beyond these. According to a 2012 study by Parks Associates, women are more likely to purchase tablets, laptops, and smartphones –- the only category men were more interested in was flat-screen LCD televisions.
Another friend, Christine, said her favorite items were her iPod, which she uses to watch television on the go, and her new smartphone: "Considering I just got it, I now feel lost when I forget it at home. So many things to look up! The appeal of both is convenience."
Women must have more money to spend on gadgets these days, because women are earning and spending more than ever before. In fact, women account for about $7 trillion in consumer spending each year. Women account for about 85 percent of all consumer purchases, and they represent the majority of online shoppers.
In 2010, women each bought an average of 4.7 consumer electronics; men bought about 4.2. When it came to all tech-related items, 88 percent of women made purchases, whereas only 83 percent of men did.
If that's the case, why are electronics overwhelmingly marketed towards men? In the rare instances when electronics are marketed towards women, designers and advertisers seem compelled to overcompensate. The thinking seems to be, take a product typically marketed to men, make it smaller, and make it pink. Bonus points if it sparkles.
Predictably, the results tend to be beyond embarrassing: Bic Cristal "For Her" pens, Hello Kitty keyboards, pink PlayStations, and Fujitsu's Floral Kiss laptop. Women already love, buy, and use gadgets -- there's no need to make them twinkle, too.
So, if I could rewind to that dinner a few weeks ago, I'd whip out an arsenal of statistics of women using more gadgets -- both in number and in variety -- than men. A time machine is another gadget I could really use.