Having worked in Tech PR for four and a half years, I’ve been to my fair share of geek fest conferences and events. The International Consumer Electronics Show (CES) in Las Vegas, however, was new territory for me this year. Given CES is typically a male-dominated show, I was curious to see whether women would be present and well received. After all, a recent study by the Consumer Electronics Association (CEA) found that women “possess substantial buying power and influence,” especially when it comes to personal technology.
According to the study, not only are women influential in making technology purchase decisions, but they are also increasingly relying on social media. Luckily, I had the wonderful opportunity to meet up with some of the women bloggers attending CES and asked them for their views on whether they felt they “fit in” at such a high testosterone conference.
Mia Kim, owner of Popgadget, a personal technology and lifestyle blog geared towards women, didn’t feel the industry has changed enough to recognize and accommodate true women in tech.
“After going [to CES] the previous 6 years, I thought this year was super crazy. After a few years of the ‘booth babe’ thing calming down, I think it’s come back,” said Mia.
Despite the mini-conference track specifically geared towards moms and parents, there wasn’t a lot geared towards true women in tech, said Mia. “There’s something ‘safe’ about tech for ‘Mom,’ but CES just shows how much the whole industry is attuned mainly to men. Somehow a ‘soccer mom’ is not threatening, but ‘entrepreneur super-tech woman’ isn’t showcased or considered when it comes to events, speakers, and products. The marketing is so male-centric – that’s why some of the booths looked like they were sponsored by Hooters.”
By contrast, Beth Blecherman, Founder of TechMamas and Chief Technologist of CoolMomTech, has seen progress over her past three visits to CES. After feeling like a “novelty” when introducing herself to exhibitors as a mom tech blogger in 2009, Beth was glad to see more than 30 mom and dad bloggers from her network at CES this year. In addition to a larger MommyTechCES summit and the first annual Fashionware tech fashion show at CES, Beth was able to meet up with fellow women bloggers during CES at mini events like Intel’s* women’s blogger meetup and a mom blogger breakfast sponsored by the Clever Girls Collective.
With a growing abundance of “smart” devices coming to market, technology is becoming more important for women to know and understand. Kristin Brandt, co-founder of Manic Mommies and tech blogger for Real Simple, interviewed Robin Raskin, founder of Living in Digital Times, about ways technology is changing the lives of children (see below video). For example, how motion-based technologies like the Wii, Kinect and Playstation, are changing children’s play patterns and is 3DTV ‘safe’ for kids to watch?
My takeaway? Consumer electronics aren’t what they used to be. From smart TVs and refrigerators to connected cars and a slew of new tablets, CES had it all: an overwhelming look at the latest gadgets out there, but also a glimpse into how our lives and interactions will evolve to include technology everywhere. What a scary, yet exciting thought!
*Full disclosure: Intel is a client of Ogilvy PR.