Friday, March 21, 2008

Women buy Less on Impulse but More on Research

womanchair I like this article on Furniture World as it is promoting the point that women make 80% of the buying decisions, and it's important to consider where females are during their leisure time to get the right advertising space to make a sale. The article also captures the fact that women do more research prior to a purchasing decision than men. They point out that wherever you advertise to sell furniture you need to reach women, be understood, and to be be a trusted resource location.

The article mentions the changes that have happened in Home Depot to appeal to the female buyer with more classes for women. I personally look forward to a line of tools that have been design ed for women, that adjust for our smaller hands, and mechanically take care of our less strong grip. As an trained ergonomist I have always carried with the lesser known fact that the strongest female grip is still not stronger than the 25th percentile male grip - which definitely puts us at a disadvantage when using tools in the renovation department.

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Friday, March 14, 2008

It's Pink, and It's Empowering

I feel a little late to the party in discovering this one, but have you heard of the magazine Pink? It's the only business publication for women. Pink has a super site that has an interview with the co-founder and CEO of the magazine, Cynthia Good. She talks about the challenges they initially faced in getting the new magazine published, and being turned down, and yet they personally thought they were onto something. Two years later the magazine has a circulation of close to half a million, and have done articles on top celebrities who are in business.

It's definitely a site worth checking out, and subscribing to the magazine.

Wednesday, March 12, 2008

Finally an Exciting Use of RFID Tags - At Least a Poplular One

After much fanfare RFID tags are starting to find homes in main stream markets. The recent one reported on in today's Dallas News is RFID tags at the exercise center, Curves. Tags can be swiped at exercise equipment to get readings on training programs and real time feedback if goals are being accomplished. Feedback from women has been high, the favorite part being easily able to identify how many calories have been burned, so how much can be eaten to stay even is known. Thank you nano-tech industry for providing us with diet tags.

If Rebrand is What's Needed to Attract Women, Aim for the Top

There have been several articles about the need to re-brand and make more attractive jobs in IT to women (EU says Geeky jobs need to be more attractive). The articles talk of trying to spice up the work. A strategy I haven't heard used yet is one to open up the management side of IT to women. I have known a few men who have made it to senior positions and executive positions in IT organizations who didn't come from IT backgrounds. It's not only the role models at the junior level and the work content that needs to be attractive but it's the aspiration of exceeding at higher levels that needs to be communicated.

I personally enjoyed my management jobs where I was constantly being exposed to new technologies and skills I didn't possess. Everyday required active thinking, understanding, and devising new strategies to make progress. It was dealing with the projects and the people that made it a cool, rewarding job. I don't hear about that side of IT, the joy of management (!).

Tuesday, March 11, 2008

Fight, Flee, or a Third Option for Women, Make Friends

So you thought fight or flee where the only two options when faced with stress? Well according to some new research being pulled together by two women there is a third option: bond with women. Huh? you say. There were two women researchers, Laura Cousin Klein and Shelley Taylor , and one day they found themselves in the lab together. They talked about what they did when they get stressed, and it was neither fight or flee but to get busy, tidy up, de-stress with female friends.

Hmmm... they thought, why doesn't this show up in the research. In reviewing their research, and previous stress related research they realized most stress related research of this type was frequently done on men.

They proceeded with a few investigations and have some thoughts on how oxytocin is released when women are in stressful situations, this leads them to more female bonding behaviors, or family nurturing behaviors. Apparently oxytocin doesn't have the same calming effect when mixed with the release of testosterone.

There's been 5 decades of research that says fight or flee are the options and here we now discover there might be alternatives. It makes us question what generalizations, organizational behavior training, etc., have been based on that male dominant research.

A few days ago I also came across another piece of research from Duke University Medical Center related to health issues rising from poor quality sleep. The new insights from the research were along the same lines - a significant amount of previous research was done on men, but with women the results are different, and in fact more significant as to the cardio-vascular system.

Notice a theme developing? Is this early part of this century going to be about reviewing outcomes from the last century and figuring out whether women were appropriately included in the research. I'd like to think current medical research is more conscious of the inclusion of women in research when it's a topic that is felt to cover both sides of the story. However, yet again if women aren't involved in the research, or commissioning of the questions the hypotheses will be different, different research designed, and the results will be different. It's an important fact to consider when entering into market research or planning phase. It feels like it relates to the gender budgeting post - people really need to exercise the alternative muscles to see alternative perspectives, or more specifically - look people, a benefit of diverse work forces are you get all these considerations for free when discussing projects. Now that is a great proposition.

Tuesday, March 4, 2008

Gender Budgeting - How Can We Leverage the Principles in Other Work

So what is gender budgeting? It's a way to review budgets to check on unintentional impact on gender. For example when governments make plans for new projects or agendas, they should not only consider impact on deliberate groups (e.g., the poor) but also be reviewed to see if there is an impact (negative or positive) on gender.
For the US the new article refers to defense contracts, obviously the goal is to get appropriately priced contracts to complete the work (I'll leave my own personal comments on this example out of it!!), however when you look at the amount of money spent on the contracts, and consider how many women are on the board of those companies that get the contracts, or how many women actually get paid to complete the work, etc. you realize that there are virtually no women receiving benefit from that work.

A specific example they give is from the UK:

The Women's Budget Group (WBG), an organization that brings together
feminist economists, researchers and policy experts to consult with the U.K.
Ministry of Finance, gives us one example in their analysis of the U.K.'s New
Deal programs to reduce unemployment. They found that only 8 percent of funding
for these programs goes to single parents, of whom 95% are female. Yet 57% of
funds go to young people, of whom only 27% are female.

Another example I know of, though it might not be true gender budgeting is that of child support in a bankrupt situation. Years ago when the debt collectors lined up to take money from someone going under, the big companies like credit card companies stood in line ahead of a parent who was owed child support. It was in Hilary Clinton's book, Living History, that I read that she'd worked with others on changing that policy, it had been easy for credit card companies to collectively move themselves to the head of the queue, but for the unrepresented parent depending on child support there was no avenue to move up the list. This policy would have had a serious impact on women, as they're probably the significant receivers of child support, but when the policy was designed it wasn't considered.

How can the premise of gender budgeting be considered achieving my goal of increasing the number of women working in technology to build experiences aimed at women like me? It could be related to reviewing marketing data with a gender pivots, however have we really identified the power and influence of women and how they show up in market data? As people who are trying to identify new markets we are probably more receptive to gender budgeting if identifies new opportunities. As for hiring practices, rewards, promotions some types of analysis are already done related to ensuring appropriate gender review (they are at major corporations).

Monday, March 3, 2008

Living with Online Harassment

There were three stories that seem to come together that I've read recently. First is an article about Holon's Women's Festival, that quotes from Virginia Wolf, "A woman must have money and a room of her own if she is to write fiction" (1928, A Room of One's Own). This quote seems to relate to another story that is about the general harassment and threats that women are receiving on the web. According to an article by Ellen Nakashima of the Washington Post this problem is on the increase. Aslishlomontl's blog points out that this same rise in behavior in chat room environments lead to a reduction in women in chat rooms over 2000 to 2005.

The question is what do we do with this understanding? Robert Scoble, technology blogger, is quoted in Ellen's article that if women chose to stop participating it will lead to negative impact on career prospects, "If women aren't willing to show up for networking events, either offline or online, then they're never going to be included in the industry," he said. Don't misunderstand him, he's a fan of our participation.

Another story I was planning on commenting on at sometime was the creation of Gamerchix at It's a special women's only community that has been set up to allow women to enter the gaming world and not feel intimidated by the 'trash talk' that gets hurled at players, especially new comers (or women). They have a manifesto which is worth calling out:
  • If you play games, you're a gamer chick. Whether you're an Xbox Halo 2 champ, play RPGs on the PC, or Mah Jong Tiles on MSN Games, you're a gamer chick.

  • Xbox GamerchiX don't talk trash about other women. Ever. When women stop hating on each other … we will rule the world!

  • Xbox GamerchiX support each other.

  • Xbox GamerchiX are good role models for young gamer girls.

  • GamerchiX are not pin-ups. We're all hot in our own unique way, but it's about the games and the companionship, not T&A.

  • You can be a member of any clan or group, but while you're part of GamerchiX, you don't talk trash about other gamers.

The quote from Virginia is still basically true, but may be instead of money it's technology and a room is a space free from criticism. There are so many ways that technology can facilitate letting out our creative spirits. We have to continue to be creative in keeping these 'rooms' free of over abusive headaches so we can achieve our goals.

As technologies and businesses are created how can we maximize keeping a positive environment and not tolerate inappropriate anonymous behavior, or provide support to increase our resolve to continue to participate when the going gets tough.

Sunday, March 2, 2008

Jewelry Stores Move to Experience

I thought this article about jewelry stores now trying to get in on the experience action was an interesting one. They are have realized that the basic shopping for jewelry experience hasn't changed in decades and the only reason why the stores survive is because women like to products and has nothing to do with the experience of the store. They're exploring ways to make the experience more engaging - how often do you try on jewelry in a store? Me, I don't feel comfortable in stores as it's too much effort to get an assistant to ask to try items on, plus I'm just not familiar with prices enough to have a clue about what I can try on that's in my price range and what's too pricey.

The article has results from a survey that highlight stores that have good experiences, the 5 essential steps to creating a store experience, and what types of experience could be on offer at a jewelry store. The stores those surveyed said delivered to them what they truly wanted were:

This article is highlighting that diverse merchants are considering what experience means. This particular group must carefully consider women, while it's romantic to be bought jewelry, given women have more cash in their pockets it would be wise to consider how to make their engagement more fulfilling with women.
I look forward to the progress, though my purse might not be so excited at the prospect!

Microsoft Supports Women's Event at TechReady

This is a nice follow up to the Detroit Automotive Show blog post. A week ago Microsoft held it's tech ready event which reached almost 5000 in attendees. Approximately 20% of the attendees were women. They hosted a special event for the women attendees. Becky Bertram, from Microsoft Consultants, comments on the event on her blog.

Again, I'd like to push the agenda that for any large scale forums or events that runs for a few days consider hosting a women's event to facilitate networking. It must seem counter-intuitive at times to men to consider women actually need formal networking events to make connections when women are considered so social in nature but it is absolutely true.