Are Women Gadget-Impaired?

by Janet Meyer Jul 18, 2006

On July 12 I read an interesting article at Comet, a UK electronics retailer, reports that its survey of 1,000 consumers revealed that women and gadgets don’t mix. Specifically, 75% of the women they talked to don’t know how to fully use their mobile devices, including phones and mp3 players. 70% of them ask their children or spouses for help. One of the things they ask for help with is downloading music.

But wait, there’s more. Comet adds that men spend hours reading instructions to learn how to use their gadgets. Women try to figure things out without the manual and then complain when they have problems.

Men read manuals? Since when? I read this article with a great deal of skepticism and concluded that either the survey was flawed (the intent of the survey was to justify Comet’s Gadget Angels team), or men and women in UK are different from those in the United States regarding both gadgets and use of instructional materials.

Interestingly, the next day Solutions Research Group released a study showing that iPod usage tripled for women in 2006. This is the same group of people that Comet’s survey said have trouble with gadgets.

I suppose both surveys could be right. Just because women are purchasing iPods doesn’t mean they know how to use them. Maybe after buying an iPod, the typical female lets somebody else put the music on it.

Then again, the Solutions Research Group survey only spoke to Americans. Comet only surveyed UK consumers. Maybe American women are different from those in the UK.

There is one other possibility. Solutions Research Group says that women prefer iPods because they just don’t have the time to fool with less simple systems. Maybe women can only work well with technology that doesn’t need a manual to work well.

It speaks well for virtually any piece of equipment when it is designed well enough to make a manual unnecessary. Still, the women I know don’t shy away from technology. In fact, in our family our female teen adapts to technology the easiest, followed closely by me. My husband is learning, but the females of the household take to technology more naturally. My husband even relies on me to fill his mp3 player.

I read a lot of comments from internet users regarding the apparent inability of women to work with gadgets. From what I read, our household is not unusual. Then again, maybe the type of person who would read that report tends to be more technologically oriented in the first place.

The Solutions Research Group study reported a number of other interesting statistics. One that shows why so many companies want to create some real competition for iPods/ITMS is the number of people paying for downloads. In 2005 approximately 8% of internet users downloaded music that they paid for. In 2006 the number of consumers paying for music increased to 23%, translating to approximately 39 million people. (This does not mean that all others pirated music, it only means they didn’t download from a paid site. 45% of American internet users have downloaded music from paid or free sites in the past.)

Here’s a number sure to please Apple Computer. Last year Solutions Research Group showed a 53% market share for iPods when compared with all digital music players. This year the survey showed them at 68%. Creative Labs was in second place with 6% of the market.

I’d like to hear your thoughts on genders and technology. Do women really find it more difficult to learn? Do men actually read manuals? Maybe it’s all a cultural difference.

Tell us what technological gadget use is like in your home.



  • Janet, great article. In my household (and by this I include my two sisters who live elsewhere), it seems that my father is the only one who’s not clued up on technology. My Mum often uses my PC and both my sisters use their PC’s better than their partners. Of course, it’s nearly always me who has to sort out problems.

    Not to say my Dad is completely useless with technology, but he does have trouble at times trying to get things to work, namely new mobile phones when he gets an upgrade once a year.

    And I don’t know any of my male friends who read manuals.

    Aaron Wright had this to say on Jul 18, 2006 Posts: 104
  • Janet, if you right articles with words people might be unfamiliar with, you shouldl include a footnote with said word’s definition.

    For example: What the HECK is a manual??!! wink

    Great article, Janet. Well written and very entertaining.

    BTW In our house my wife struggles with some gadgets and cruises with others. Same for me. The kids (2 of each) just understand them all.

    Chris Howard had this to say on Jul 18, 2006 Posts: 1209
  • oops - and I don’t always proof read my comments properly. I meant WRITE and SHOULD of course! smile It’s tomorrow here - that’s my excuse

    Chris Howard had this to say on Jul 18, 2006 Posts: 1209
  • According to, here’s what a manual is…

    A small reference book, especially one giving instructions.

    This definition is close, but not quite right. The manual, for those who don’t know, is that small book that comes in the box of almost anything you buy. The purpose is to give instructions on using your new gadget. Often worded very poorly, it’s those pages you throw away because reading them causes you to 1) tear your hair out, and 2) teach your kids words you don’t want them to learn.

    Janet Meyer had this to say on Jul 18, 2006 Posts: 36
  • My wife can handle gadgets well enough, but she usually defaults to letting me to work out what to do with them, then asking me what to do.

    This means I learn things too. For instance, I had my iPod for 18 months before I bought her one, and after a few days with hers she asked me how to set up a smart playlist, which I hadn’t felt the need to do in all the time I had my own iPod. So I had to learn, to maintain the illusion that I’m better at the technical stuff.

    nilp had this to say on Jul 18, 2006 Posts: 16
  • If women are gadget impaired, then maybe men are people impaired. We all know we don’t like to ask for directions!

    veggiedude had this to say on Jul 18, 2006 Posts: 6
  • I always read the manual. I figure that a technical writer has suffered so that I don’t have to. smile

    Aurora77 had this to say on Jul 18, 2006 Posts: 35
  • i can’t see my sister trying to install linux on her iPod, she is not interested on it at all. and yeah i dont read manuals at all, neither my sister, but she manages very well when it comes to find out how things work.

    nana had this to say on Jul 18, 2006 Posts: 63
  • If women are gadget impaired, then maybe men are people impaired. We all know we don’t like to ask for directions! Not only that, we don’t like talking to strangers at all.

    nana had this to say on Jul 18, 2006 Posts: 63
  • Women are the same everywhere I’ve been in the world and I like them to stay like that. It is a genetic predisposition, some say. Hey, I want my gadgets, they can keep the maps. What more do you want?

    And no, I am not a male chauvanist-in-the-closet. I just want to clear that out for our female readers. wink

    Robomac had this to say on Jul 19, 2006 Posts: 846
  • Maybe its a culteral thing, at least in part.  My wife, mid-fifties, can’t handle anything that doesn’t have a physical dial to turn.  My kids, ranging from 19 to 29, take to technology like ducks to water.  I am in IT tech support, so no problemo.  My wife was born and raised in Germany in the fifties - when food was scarce after the war, and technology was 10 years behind the States.  I was born here, and have taken to anything new, technically, that I could get my hands on. (And, yes, I DO read manuals!)

    rahrens had this to say on Jul 19, 2006 Posts: 18
  • And, yes, I DO read manuals! -rhs

    Now…say, you don’t mean “skimming” the manuals??? wink You are da man.

    Robomac had this to say on Jul 19, 2006 Posts: 846
  • Page 1 of 1 pages
You need log in, or register, in order to comment