The Technoratia: the Women on the Web
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.”