Neesha Hathi, senior vice president of advisor technology solutions at Schwab Advisor Services, has a good view of how women use technology.
“Women are very interested in understanding more. They do a lot of research,” she said. “Because I spend a lot of time on technology I also look at a lot of the tech trends around women, and what you find is that women are spending more time on the Internet than men. Before they buy something or before they make a decision, they’re doing a lot of research. They’re very interested in making sure they’re leveraging all the people they know to make sure they’re making the right decision.”
That applies to deciding who to use as an advisor as well. “What we’re seeing is that there’s quite an appetite from women to educate themselves or to get help from a financial advisor, but it’s finding the right one,” Hathi said.
She referred to research that shows when women are online, they tend to use “social networking sites, research and communication-type sites like Skype. Because they make a lot of the household buying decisions, they’re also on Amazon and other sites like that.”
The traditional market for technology products is changing as women become more likely to use mobile tools, Hathi said. “Smartphone and tablet usage among women is higher and growing. It used to be in technology that the classic target market was the 17- 35-year-old male. That was the market that was going to buy their stuff. If you look at smartphones and tablets and a lot of the newer innovations, they’re not the target market anymore.”
That’s not going to change any time soon, either. “If you think about the fact that we have more women heading households, we have more women with wealth, we have more female decision makers, this is a trend that’s going to continue. Because women are using technology in very practical ways, it’s flown under the radar for a long time.”
While women are asserting themselves as consumers of technology, Hathi sees a lot of the problems in the RIA space reflected in the technology industry.
“Whether it’s young women getting into the market or women at the executive level, you just don’t see as many in the technology area,” she said. “It comes back to a lot of things that are not dissimilar from the RIA space. There aren’t a lot of female role models, and when you look at technology particularly there are very few. A lot of girls at younger ages are not necessarily encouraged as much to pursue things like math and science. From a societal standpoint, we don’t focus on some of those things and that ends up with fewer women in these companies at senior levels.”