Time for More Tech Products Designed By and For Women

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The problem is that very few women are entering engineering and most products are designed by men to be sold to men.

By Rachel Lehmann-Haupt (Editor, Women 2.0)

Think Prada designed Google Glasses or a way to silence your phone and still keep it in your purse. Microsoft Research Fellow Blaise Aguera y Arcas, the architect behind Bing Maps and Bing Mobile, told a crowd of designers at a Microsoft event in Tel Aviv this week that more women need to be designing technology products.

According to Business Insider, his rational is that women’s incomes are rising faster than men’s. For example, according to Census Bureau data, single women with no children between the ages of 22 and 30 in the majority of US cities have higher incomes than their male counterparts. Women are increasingly controlling household spending. The technology world, therefore, needs to create more products that are attractive to women so they spend their money on them.

The problem is that very few women are entering engineering and most products are designed by men to be sold to men. One example that Aguera y Arcas gave is vibrating phones, which assume that men carry them in their pocket. I personally carry my phone in my purse and therefore never hear it if the ringer is turned off. I loved when design and innovation firm IDEO worked with British Fashion designer Richard Nicoll  to design a gorgeous smart phone charging handbag. I recently attended the TED Conference in Long Beach, Ca, and had the chance to try on Google Glasses. I have to say from a fashion perspective, they are utterly awful. I personally won’t go near them until Google partners with a fashion designer, like hint hint Prada, and improves the design for women.

Women-centric products won’t come to fruition on a large scale, however, until companies starting hiring more CEOs and more women become engineers. According to Fast Company, women only make up 20 percent of the industrial design field. The good news is Until then, Aguera y Arcas suggested using “Ethnography” tools in order to get feedback from women on designs.

Women 2.0 readers: Let’s have some fun: What kind of tech products do women need? What products need to be re-designed with a woman’s touch?

Rachel Lehmann-Haupt is an editor at Women 2.0 and author and journalist interested in gender politics, working motherhood and the influence of science and technology on culture. Her work has appeared in The New York Times, the Daily Beast, New York, Vogue, Self, Outside, Wired, and MSN Money. She is the author of In Her Own Sweet Time: Unexpected Adventures in Finding Love, Commitment and Motherhood (Basic Books, 2009). Follow her on Twitter at @rlehmannhaupt.

Photo credit: Miriam Berkley