Microsoft released a new “Wedding Planner” commercial for its All-in-One personal computer and tablet, clearly meant to appeal to women. But instead of showcasing how the device can make real life easier, it trivializes women’s relationships with technology and uses tired stereotypes.
Microsoft’s ad features a soon-to-be bride who says the tablet PC is “perfect” for planning her wedding and checking Pinterest with her bridesmaids. “Now if they’d only like their bridesmaid’s dresses as much as my All-in-One!” the woman jokes.
The latest “Honestly” ad follows another woman-targeted commercial Microsoft released in early February, centered around a harried karate mom who opted for a Windows laptop so her kids could chat online.
These cliche portrayals of women as solely concerned with wedding planning, Pinterest, and kids are the latest evidence of the tech world’s apparent inability to talk to women. Even though research shows women often use the Internet and new technologies more than men, recent efforts to tap into this demographic have featured a woman using Gmail to shop for shoes and confirm dates, advertised how Dell can help you track calories and watch fitness videos, and designed a floral-themed Fujitsu laptop with a built-in scrapbook app.
This patronizing approach to female consumers may have something to do with tech companies’ overall gender imbalance. Silicon Valley, infamous for its “brogrammer” culture, has struggled with gender inclusion. Even with more women entering science and technology jobs, the tech world is still predominately male, especially in hiring positions. Eighty-nine percent of the series A and seed-funded companies were started by men, compared to only 3 percent for women. Tech companies sometimes justify turning away female candidates by claiming they don’t “fit” the culture or are simply not qualified.
Its latest effort aside, Microsoft has run a non-stereotypical ad that features a female paramedic, student and XBox gamer — a more inclusive, less cliche take on how women use technology.
Eschewing those more thoughtful ads targeting women, could hurt companies’ bottom lines, if they haven’t already. Women make up nearly 80 percent of social media users, are more likely to own e-readers than men and tend to be highly educated, according to Pew Internet Research studies published last year. Women are also slightly more likely to own a tablet computer than men. But without more diversity at the top, one-note ads that depict women as superficial tech users will be slow to change.