So Much for Female Technophobia

When confronted with consumer electronics, do women go into an anxious swoon? That was the cliche for years — the stereotype about stereos, so to speak. Focusing on single women (i.e., women not subject to the special influences a married household entails), a new Forrester Research report gives a more up-to-date picture of the matter.

One measure of single women’s comfort with consumer electronics is that they’re not much less likely than single men to own some items in the category — and are a bit more likely to own a digital camera (78 percent vs. 76 percent). Fifty-two percent of the women, vs. 55 percent of the men, own a portable MP3 player; 27 percent of the women, vs. 29 percent of the men, own a handheld video-game player. As for laptop/notebook computers, 55 percent of single women and 60 percent of single men own one. The gaps were wider for HDTV (48 percent of men, 36 percent of women) and video-game consoles (53 percent of men, 44 percent of women).

Single women’s unswooning embrace of consumer electronics reflects basic attitudes toward technology. Fifty-nine percent agreed strongly that “Technology makes my life better” and 50 percent that “New technology is fun or interesting.” Most strikingly, 42 percent agreed strongly that “I’m comfortable setting up new technology or software in my home” and 48 percent that “When I have computer problems, I try to fix them myself.”

One part of the polling (conducted online in November) rebuts the notion that women focus mainly on how such products look. Respondents were asked whether the look of a product is an “important,” “neutral” or “not important” consideration in a TV set, personal computer or digital camera. In each case, more than half the single women chose “neutral” or “not important. Indeed, the poll’s single men were more apt than their female counterparts to rate looks as important in a TV or PC.

What consumer-electronics attributes are highly important to single women? For PCs, the most mentions went to “reliability” (86 percent), with “durability” the runner-up (83 percent). Those were also the top factors for single men. Single women were more apt than single men to assign high importance to the warranty (79 percent vs. 72 percent) and energy efficiency (76 percent vs. 61 percent). For TVs, reliability and durability were valued about equally by male and female singles. But more women than men said “ease of installation/setup” is highly important (77 percent vs. 62 percent).