Hi-tech gadgets have female appeal

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A NEW breed of woman, the techno-ladette, is stalking the streets - but she is largely being ignored.

A survey of female attitudes has found that women are just as interested in technology as men are - but that the mostly male advertisers and marketing executives who are selling new gadgets have no idea of how to communicate with women.

Thus, women do not feel well-informed when it comes to buying equipment such as computers and mobile phones, or connecting up to the Internet, according to new research by the marketing company Cohn & Wolfe.

Women have a growing number of role models who are at ease with technology - such as Meg Ryan in the film You've Got Mail or the female lead in the BBC television series Bugs. "Interest levels in new technology are gender- blind," said James Murphy, a director at Cohn & Wolfe and the author of the report.

Mobile phone sales to women were up 24 per cent last year, and computer sales were up 11 per cent. Asked to rate their interest in technical details when buying a computer, more women than men were interested - 30 per cent compared with 27 per cent.

Yet when it came to rating their confidence in making a purchase, only 8 per cent of the women felt confident. A similar exercise - choosing a company to provide Internet access - showed similar levels of interest and splits in confidence.

Many women complained of being patronised by salesmen - who were mostly male - or ignored altogether in favour of their male companions.

"The marketing of technology fails to bridge the gap between women's interest levels and their claimed confidence," Mr Murphy said. He also pointed out statistics showing that in 1998 men's magazines contained almost 20 times more computer advertising than did women's magazine.

But he believes that advertisers can ease the problem by "embracing and shaping" the aspirations of the "sophisticated techno-femme". Mobile phones are a particular target, with advertisers currently focusing on the phones' small size.

"Old assumptions about the marketing of technological products may in practice be hurting sales and damaging brands," Mr Murphy said.