Ever wondered why when half the people buying technological products are women so few work in the industry? Or why that industry’s attempts to sell to women seem to centre on the patronisingly pink variety? Patricia McLoughlin talked to Belinda Parmar, unashamed geek, founder and CEO of the Lady Geek agency and author of Little Miss Geek for some pointers.
Belinda Parmar is happy on the campaign trail. She wants companies to wake up and create and promote products that appeal to women. She also wants to turn the next generation of girls into geeks through her Little Miss Geek book and programme.
Mum to Jedd, aged six, and four-year-old Rocca, Belinda, now 38, has been running Lady Geek for two and a half years. Having studied languages, she found her double honours degree in Spanish & French “completely useless in the world of work” and headed towards technology.
“Three out of ten best paid jobs are in technology,” she says. “And it’s a really creative place to be. Which begs the question why are only 17% of technology jobs done by women and why are only 8% of girls doing A levels in computing.”
Through her Little Miss Geek Campaign, Belinda wants to do for technology what Jamie Oliver did for school dinners.
“I want us to look at how the industry can solve the problems it has created, the lack of women’s involvement, the pink it and shrink it approach which is so outdated and merely shows that they have no understanding of what professional women want. Is it representative of what little girls want? Well, my daughter is four and her purchasing power is zero and women who have purchasing power don’t want to be patronized.”
When it comes to working in the technology industry Belinda thinks, “It’s not that companies don’t want women, it’s that they don’t make women feel wanted. They feel alienated. Some 47% who go into the industry leave after ten years. Keeping women involved, with all the associated advantages, means creating flexible working in an environment where they can flourish.
“Some companies, like O2 and Dell, know that you don’t have to be in the office and they promote home and flexible working. They know that women have great emotional intelligence and are great at collaboration and can bring something like a 40% higher return on investment.”
Having worked in the industry and now advising companies through her Lady Geek agency Belinda is attempting to bridge the yawning gap between the people who make and market technology products and the women who buy them.
Her book, Little Miss Geek, outlines the problem and looks at how to solve it. She is hoping for enlightened teachers helped through Little Miss Geek workshops in schools and a generation of pioneering geeky girls entering careers in technology
And she wants brands that empower and inspire women. “I went into a retailer to buy a mobile phone and the salesman, who was 15 years younger than me, began talking very slowly and leading me over to the pink phones. Walking out I thought, ‘I can’t be the only woman in Britain who doesn’t want to be patronized.
“What we need are role models, the female equivalent of Bill Gates, but what we have is a generation who are keen to be reality TV celebrities, while the number of girls going down the technology route is actually going down by half a percent each year.
“By the time my four-year-old daughter has grown up it’s likely to be a 90% male industry. If that was media, medicine or any other profession there would be an outcry.”
Indeed there would – so come on let’s help Belinda grow a generation of geeky girls and demand less pink, more think from the industry.
@belindaparmar is the CEO of Lady Geek http://ladygeek.com/ and the author of Little Miss Geek http://www.amazon.co.uk/Little-Miss-Geek-Bridging-Technology/dp/0957389809. Find out how you can get involved at http://littlemissgeek.org/