Tech's Failure to Reach Women Costs the Industry Billions
Women are chipping away at the glass ceiling. Today, we are business owners. We are CEOs. We are presidential nominees. We are more likely than men to have a college degree. We are entering the workforce at a record rate and as a result, we now control the majority of personal wealth in the U.S.
With that personal wealth comes substantial spending power. Women now account for more than 85 percent of all consumer purchases. With this kind of financial impact, one would think that companies would develop products to meet our changing needs. But walking around the CES exhibit halls this month, we saw many examples of products that clearly don’t have women in mind, from smartwatches far larger than the diameter of an average woman’s wrist to pink house-cleaning robots.
Our recent study on smart speakers found that women were significantly less satisfied with their Alexa and Google Home than men. They were also more likely to have received their devices as a gift, rather than purchasing them on their own, suggesting they weren’t as drawn to the devices as men. Designing products for women is certainly the right thing to do, but that isn’t the only factor for tech companies who care about their bottom lines. Money is left on the table when product market fit isn’t a match, and women make up more than 50 percent of most markets. A failure to design technology for women has a significant financial cost.
So how can brands better unlock the spending potential of hundreds of millions of women?
They can start by following a user-centered design process that makes it a strategic priority to explore customer insights from a diversity of perspectives. Stop designing experiences that marginalize significant groups. One female consumer told us in a banking study, “I don’t know if it’s because I’m Black or because I’m Southern, but these things never understand me.”
If the last 10 years of digital transformation has taught us anything, it’s that exceptional user experiences win in the market every time, and that those experiences come from design thinking processes. Watching consumers in their homes while they use products, testing concepts and prototypes in the lab with real people, and creating a continuous feedback loop from a diverse customer set result in product market fit every time.
Design thinking and successful products also require tech leaders to have a deep well of empathy for customers. You can’t design for people you don’t understand. But, empathy doesn’t come naturally to everyone, so tech leaders need to actively cultivate this skill in their teams. Spending time with customers in their natural environments is a great place to start.
Above all else, for brands to truly tap into the spending power of women, they have to get more of them at the table making strategic decisions that influence product design. Brands need to be able to walk a mile in customers’ shoes in order to understand how to build a product that meets their needs, and women are uniquely suited to translate the needs of women into product features.
We saw panel after panel of all-male speakers at CES but that’s just one example out of many. Until more women have a seat at the table and in the c-suite, we’ll continue to marvel at the collective lost revenue opportunities from an industry that still hasn’t realized diversity is the key to unlimited revenue growth potential.