Where are all the women in tech?
Marija Butkovic, Digital Marketing and PR Consultant, co-founder of Kisha Umbrellas (@GetKisha) and Women Of Wearables UK (@Women_Wearables), blogs about the current lack of wearables designed for women and how this is in part due to a shortage of women being included in the design process.
Most of the attendees at a recent wearables event were men and I found most of the products being showcased to be a bit bulky, quite dark coloured and all in all not particularly attractive for me as a woman. This sparked a question about why is this so, what’s the reason?
This realisation was in part why I co-founded WoW UK, Women of Wearables with my co-founder Michelle Hua (@MadewithGlove) from Manchester. The aim is to promote, support and connect women in wearables.
We also want to encourage women to participate more in building hardware products as designers, product managers and developers; because currently almost all wearable products are lacking that key aesthetic component. I think one reason for that is due to a shortage of female designers being involved throughout the entire process of designing wearable products.
Personally, I am a big advocate of women in tech and just because I cannot code, does not mean that I do not belong in the industry. I feel the mindset for many women is: how can I contribute in designing a tech product if I cannot code?
Balancing the female, male ratio at work
Companies should be interested in building a community with greater gender diversity. That starts with the kind of company culture you foster. The other issue is that people don’t always know where to look to find female talent. Throughout the hiring process companies need to be careful not to discriminate against anyone, including men, but there are female tech groups that ought to be approached as part of the hiring strategy.
Culturally, there are jobs that are more commonly associated as female or male roles, but that mindset needs to be changed in schools by supporting women to study at tech universities and to participate in coding programmes.
Encouraging women in tech
I think the main problem is that when men design a product they don’t often include women in their teams. This results in a greater focus on the products’ big data and tech features rather than the aesthetics.
It’s important when developing a wearable product to make the technology invisible to the user. I believe every company developing wearables should have at least one female designer to add a different perspective about what other women will want to wear.
When companies embed their ‘things’ with too many sensors, it’s indicative that their focus is solely on gathering big data. I question whether a customer really needs 10 different charts, recording everything from sleeping patterns to steps? While big data is important, the user experience should be at the forefront of the design process.
Wearable technology and fashion
Due to the nature of fashion it is a predominantly female sector and I see brands hesitant to incorporate and adopt wearable technology. On the flipside, the tech industry is predominantly male, so as we begin to merge technology with fashion, I think there will be a rise in the number of women coming to tech and vice versa.
Successful startups building fashion tech products should be put in touch with fashion brands ranging from the high street to the high-end. To do that, there must be collaboration between governments, fashion brands, investors and accelerators. Without money, startups will be unable to facilitate these collaborations and that is the key to their ongoing success, particularly in bringing wearable technology to the mass market.