Technology: Is it a man’s world?

The world of information and communications technology (ICT) is an exciting mix of cultures, expertise and genders. But sometimes the popular media gets it wrong.

In a recent article in the Globe & Mail, columnist Margaret Wente asked the question “Why Are Bloggers Male?” She answers her own question by suggesting that men are “quick to have an opinion they know nothing about.” Given that thesis, one would assume that Wente had done sufficient research to avoid being lumped in with the  bloggers she decries.

The very title of her column begs the question: “Are bloggers really male?” A quick search of statistics suggests not. Austin’s New Media Lab reported in 2008 that bloggers are evenly split: 51% male and 49% female.  According to the Harvard Business School, the ratio of women to men using the micro-blogging tool Twitter is 55% to 45%. The blog aggregator BlogHer attracts 20 million people every month and the most popular blog on the Internet, the Huffington Post, was conceived and run by Arianna Huffington, one of the most influential people in new media.

In many other high-tech spheres, women are just as prolific as men. On social networking sites women squeak by men at 53% to 47%.  Stats on video game play show that overall, men play slightly more than women, at 57% to 43%, however, a study by the Consumer Electronics Association found that in the 24-35 year old age range, female gamers far outweigh male gamers 65% to 35%. Statistics on the use of “computers and the internet” by the Federal Reserve Bank found that a gender gap existed in the 1990s, but “by 2001… these gender differences had disappeared or were even reversed.”

Two of the most interesting game designers of recent years are women. At TED last month, Jane McGonigal, Director of Game Research and Development at the Institute for the Future, talked about using games to affect social change. She created the award-winning World Without Oil and The Lost Ring, so far played by over five million people.

Nicole Lazzaro is another technology game-changer whose clients include Electronic Arts (EA), Ubisoft and Sega. As Founder and President of XEODesign, Lazzaro helped design the first game for the iPhone that used the built-in accelerometer only one week after it first came out. Like McGonigal, she is devoted to “improving the quality of life through play.”

Columns like Wente’s push the stereotype that online platforms and the wider sphere of technological innovation is populated mostly by men. Companies that believe this will miss out on a huge market hungry for products not marketed to the mythical male consumer. Don’t believe it. The opportunity has never been greater for women to shape the future of high-tech business.