"Mother" is not code for "knows nothing about computers"

I'm spending the summer in Boulder away from my husband and children in Boston, where I'm working on a web startup with Blogheristas Susan Mernit and Catherine Taylor. Boulder is a great town for tech meetups. Pretty much every week you
can go somewhere to see people demo alpha or unreleased software or web
services.

It’s fun, but I gotta tell ya, these gatherings are tough on the
mothers. There hasn’t been a single evening in which at least one
person has not played the “well, we don’t expect our mother to be able to use it” card.

LISTEN UP: I AM A MOTHER AND I HAVE ROOT. STOP STEREOTYPING MY KIND AS TECHNOLOGICALLY INEFFECTUAL OR I WILL RM -RF ALL YOUR DATA.

I don’t tell you this just because these stereotypes are
cringe-makingly sexist and ageist, because I have no interest in
getting anyone to be more politcally correct. I tell you this because
if you are trying to create an online service or software product and
you think this way, you will lose a ton of money.

Consider this: the average age of a mother with preschool age
children in the us is 27. Do you really think a 27 year old doesn’t
know what the Internet is? Secondly, mothers are among the most
desirable demographics for advertising because they control a very
large percentage of household spending.

One more: Seniors now access the internet at the same rate as the
general population AND they are also the fastest growing segment in
terms of total numbers and increased weekly usage.

Now, if anyone wants to continue to use these two important and
fast-growing demographics only as examples of users they believe are
too stupid to use their product, I have no objection to taking all the
money left on the table as they all compete against each other for a
tiny slice of gadget-obsessed guys. However, our company does not
really need the head start that our lack of outdated stereotypes about
mothers and seniors represent — we’re plenty strong without any unfair
advantages. So this one’s a gimme, from us to…well, you know who you
are.

And remember: if mama ain’t happy, ain’t nobody happy.

Lisa Williams writes about her startup adventures at People's Software: A Startup Blog. She'll be at Blogher 2008.

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