Will The Sugababes put women off Windows 7? Or not? I'm confused.

Please help me everyone, I’m confused.

Today the WITsend blog on ComputerWeekly, a blog called ‘A place for women in IT’, asks “Will tech companies ever learn?” Apparently Microsoft, in making girl band The Sugababes the new face of Windows 7 (at least in the UK), has made a mistake. WiTsend says that The Sugababes are aimed at tweeny-bopper eight-year-old girls who are “not exactly the biggest consumers of computer operating systems”. Thus the campaign will not appeal to grown up women who do actually buy PCs.

Admittedly the blog admits that in using a pop band (it quite easily have been a boy band I guess) who are not known for their intellectual capacity so much as their ability to kick out a pop track while looking good, Microsoft is cleverly showing that just about anyone, wow even bubble-gum pop bands, can use Windows 7.

However, it adds:

“But why we are hearing this from a girl band whose main audience must be pre-teen is a bit baffling. It’s a perfect example of how tech companies feel the need to make something glossy and pretty before women will even glance at it. If I want something pretty, I’ll buy a bloody necklace. Everyone likes nice-looking technology (see the universal appeal of Apple) but you do not need to make tech “glamourous” to make women want to buy it. In fact, it puts a lot of them off.”

WITsend is not the only tech blog aimed at women that’s annoyed. So is BitchBuzz.

Now, here’s the thing – I’m confused. I’m not so much confused by the point that tech companies continually do slightly odd things to market at women. The amount of pink laptops and netbooks I see suggests a pretty ham-fisted approach to marketing tech to women. But they seem to elicit two different responses from the women in tech I know. On the one hand some go “Ugh, not another pink laptop” and others I know go “Hey, cool laptop – and it comes in pink!”. I’m going to leave that whole debate aside.

What I’m confused about is more the WITsend post itself.

Most of the actual research seems to suggest that there has been a decline in the number of women in the technology sector due to various things: pay not keeping pace with men, ‘casual’ sexist attitudes and comments in the workplace, not enough other women there already – things like that.

The research I’ve read generally says that to alleviate this problem there needs to be more activity done to engage with young girls at an early age to suggest to them that technology is NOT just for the boys.

So, guess what? Wouldn’t it make sense to hire a girl band. e.g. The Sugababes, who are generally known to appeal to young, aspirational girls. This a) addresses a market rarely addressed by tech companies (obviously that’s to Microsoft’s benefit in marketing terms in this specific instance) and b) there may be a wider knock-on, long term effect of encouraging more young women to eventually enter into the tech industry. I even remember Atomic Kitten (remember them?) being used to promote some mobile service many years ago.

So, I ask: is this a “good thing” or a “bad thing”?

A lot of the time when this debate comes up I see women bloggers saying there should be more done with girls in schools to encourage them to get into tech.

Then I see a post like this attacking a tech company for aiming at young girls.

Please help me understand, I’m just a simple guy. And I’ve probably missed something.