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Why Are the Sexes Different in Technology Use? August 27, 2011

Posted by Peter Varhol in Technology and Culture.

I confess that I have my doubts about the premise of this post.  First, there is a great deal of variability in individual actions in general, without reference to sex.  Second, there just doesn’t seem to be any readily digestible reason why it might be so.

But that’s not what this this article of purchase patterns suggests.  It notes that the latest Nielsen data reveals 61 percent of e-reader owners are women, while men make up 57 percent of tablet owners.

I can offer several possible explanations here that are only indirectly related to any differences in the sexes.  E-readers are less expensive than tablets, and women in general may have less overall disposable income than men.  Alternatively, neither e-readers nor tablets have a broad exposure in the market (the article notes that e-readers just achieved double-digit penetration this past spring, while tablets remain significantly behind even that).  This may mean that there are characteristics other than sex that are much more important.

But I am loathe to believe that in some way men are “wired differently” than women.  Certainly that sounds sexist, and as near as I can tell, is unproven in science.

While the difference is no doubt statistically significant, I wonder if it is significant from a practical standpoint.  If you make enough oddball comparisons, a few of them will show significant differences, purely out of chance.  While the percentage differences are real, plenty of men own e-readers (I do) and plenty of women own tablets (I don’t).

Yet despite these possible explanations, it does seem as though there might be something here.  Are women less inclined to be early adopters?  Or do they want technology with a simple, defined purpose?

I freely admit that I don’t believe it, but it’s an interesting mystery and intellectual exercise.



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