Archive for May 2009
As part of my research for a feature on the Female Web, I spoke to Shiny Shiny founder, Katie Lee, about how hordes of tech-savvy women are bucking the trend and smashing the stereotype that women and technology do not mix.
Lee started the gadget website for girls Shiny Shiny in 2004 when she realised there were actually a lot of women who were interested in technology.
Working on a male-orientated laptop magazine at the time, Lee was inspired by the reaction of her female friends who would pester her to let them try out the new gadgets which came into the office.
“I felt strongly that gadgets should not just be for women interested in technology and know about them, but should actually be open to anyone,” she said. “They are more than just toys for geeks.”
Lee felt there were no outlets for talk about technology in women’s magazines. She pitched a ‘Gadgets for Girls’ section to Marie Claire, but was soon frustrated by the heavy editing of the regular feature.
“When I started writing about technology the idea that women were interested in gadgets had to be pushed every time,” she said. “I think the stereotypes still exist and there is still a lack of females working in technology because school-girls are still not taking IT and science subjects.”
But Lee believes attitudes towards technology are changing as the web becomes more social and conversational.
When she started Shiny Shiny she wanted it to be anti-stereotypical in its outlook – but the site is pink.
“The pink was an ironic statement at the start and I think that is clear. The website does not take itself too seriously and is not too complicated. It is written for women by women and not for people who actually care about algorithms and megabites,” she said.
“Male gadget websites are a bit cynical and all about being unimpressed with new technologies, where as Shiny Shiny is a bit of fun and a bit silly really.”
So do women really like Shiny Shiny things?
“I used to get asked this question all the time and my feeling is that actually men and women want the same thing. You rarely meet someone who fits the stereotype. The argument was women wanted small pink gadgets, and some do, but women love blackberries and always have done and they used to be really ugly.
“Women do not love technology just for the sake of it. If it offers an everyday use that is just as important as how it looks. But that is the same for men.
“There is a reason Apple have done so well. Other products just did not look as good. A simple good design and an obvious use are the things women go for.”
While Lee thinks many companies still need to grasp the idea of making women-friendly sites to latch onto the market of women who love technology, she does not agree women will dominate the web in the future and instead believes trends will be determined by the next generation.
“While the feminisation of technology is very obvious the point the internet will be full of women in the future is a strange one because in the end everybody will be on the net,” she said.
“It is the young people coming up who will decide whether we will all be using e-books. We thought MP3s would never catch on because people loved the artwork too much. But kids today don’t even think about artwork as we once did with CDs.”
While websites with a female slant are on the increase, the blogosphere remains dominated by men.
But concept of the Female Web means women can exercise their natural instinct to form close-knit communities online.
Visits to UK women’s lifestyle sites grew by 52.5 per cent in the last year. These communities form around topics of related interest, and the most successful clusters of women on the web surround the basic need to shop, preen, and bitch.
Glam.com, a fashion and celebrity site, sees 43 million visitors a month. Oprah.com and iVillage are also popular homing grounds – comScore and Media Matrix ranked the latter as the number one online destinations for women. CafeMom is one of the largest social networking sites for mothers and ranked the eighth fastest-growing website in 2007. Double X launched last month and sites like Jezebel attract almost 900, 000 readers worldwide.
But despite the wealth of women-friendly sites attracting a global female network, blogging remains a gender-imbalanced activity.
Fiona Handscomb (left), 30, an arts and lifestyle blogger in Birmingham believes despite the idea of Female Web, blogging is male in nature.
“Men are more competitive and better at self-promotion,” she said, “And better at saying ‘Look, I’ve written this amazing blogpost, everyone go and look at it,’ where as women are less like that. Blogging works by self-promotion and establishing yourself in an online hierarchy.
“Most of the blogs I read are written by men. There are thousands of female bloggers but they do not decide to be as high profile. The problem is the internet is now a very competitive place – people are always going on about web stats and self-promoting their blogs via Twitter.”
Mrs Handscomb believes by nature women should be more suited to blogging, but are deterred by its image and might not reach as high on Technorati’s top blogs list because they are less worried about stats.
“There is still the perception that blogging is for techy geeks which is off-putting for women. But women are darn good at blogging because its style is informal, chatty and conversational, which is naturally suited to women.
“Blogs written by men tend to be a little bit more factual and are really into social media so they constantly refer to or link to others. Women tend to blog more about life issues rather than the internet itself. I know there are lots of women who are into technology, but they tend to write about it in the context of life. For example, I was very interested in the increase of geo-tagging, so I wrote a blog on it, but looking more in general about why people were interested in their sense of place.”
Mrs Handscomb said some aspects of the web aren’t female at all because relationships via Twitter are not as intimate as in real life.
“The web is associative and that’s a female tendency. Social media is the largest function of the internet now and has surpassed email. But there is something quite destructive about it too. It is an unreal way of developing relationships. You can turn Twitter on and off, but you can’t just switch off relationships. Also, people aren’t always honest on the internet so you don’t get to the nitty gritty of people. People put themselves across a certain way on Twitter, but in real relationships people see the bad bits as well. The internet is not intimate and personal enough to be female.”
Read Fi’s blogs here: