A Small Omission: Gran Turismo Sport and Female Gamers

The other day, my husband decided to share a trailer for the latest Gran Turismo game that was unveiled for the Playstation console at the latest E3 events. I remember playing Gran Turismo games with my little brother way back when on the original first Playstation! I also really enjoy, now as an adult with a driver's license, having the opportunity to drive high performance cars from time to time; though, most of the time, I'm rolling around in a compact car with good fuel economy thanks to Zipcar. All that said, we watched the trailer together and were in awe of the beautiful graphics that made sleek sports cars look even sleeker.

However, while the game graphics look fantastic, I noticed a small omission in the trailer I watched. Let me explain.

At about 45 seconds into the video, multiple world flags appear circling the globe with some text overlayed that says "Driving is for Everyone." I thought that was cute and chuckled softly to myself. Yes, driving should be for everyone because, personally, I find it fun and convenient for getting across this giant country we live in.

By about 2 and a half minutes in, they start presenting images about live tournaments they'll be running regularly. I think to myself, "How the hell are they going to manage that?" but I'm sure they've figured out some way to automate it so that people can play in these tournaments online and it works fairly seamlessly.

At 3 minutes in, the screen now reads "Open to all ages, anyone can enjoy" but all the faces I see feverishly playing the new game are men. Eight seconds later and I think I've spotted ONE woman deep in the background at this tournament event they are showing footage from. Another six seconds go by and I see a crowd of people clapping for the game, not sure if they are fans or journalists but it is fairly clear that they are also ALL men. By 3 minutes and 38 seconds into the video, it is still a sausage fest with a group of male victors celebrating.

By 3 minutes and 50 seconds, I finally see a woman in the foreground and she is congratulating a winner, who is of course male. Continue reading "A Small Omission: Gran Turismo Sport and Female Gamers"

Candidates for a Work Appropriate Laptop bag

I work at a company that loves email. You might work at one, too! I spend a good part of my work day simply triaging and responding to email. And, because the little red circles next to applications on my iPhone keep me up at night, I cannot stand for an Inbox that has double or triple-digit unread messages.

On a particularly tough work day, I discovered a really cool thing that Outlook does. When I receive messages, even if I haven't read them, everything about that message has been downloaded (included attachments). For NYC area commuters with limited wifi access, this means you can spend your commuting time managing your inbox (provided you get a seat). I turned a colleague onto this who commutes via MetroNorth (the above ground railroad that leads to points north of the city) and she proclaimed it a godsend. Hooray for productivity!

Of course, after I discovered this, I started toting my laptop home with me more often. On the ride to work, I could clean up whatever was in my inbox that I didn't get to the previous day and start my day fresh! Or maybe I could work on a document during that time. Either way, stealing moments to catch up on work during particularly busy stretches helped immensely.

However, what didn't help was the fact that my laptop got a little hefty after a while with all its accessories. I decided to stop bringing the charger home which definitely helps lessen the load (I keep one charger at the office, and another at home). That said, I discovered a good bag to tote it home in would be necessary. Right now, I have a leather bag designed for 15 inch laptops which is far too big; especially on the subway where I feel like a bull in a china cabinet. And I tried to search for this type of information (i.e. "best laptop bags") but the ideas that turn up are usually centered on men's bags or bags that can exclusively hold a laptop, but not much else.

My ideal bag doesn't look like it has a laptop in it. Perhaps that's the New Yorker in me but I would like to walk down the street and not feel like someone might target me because of what they know exists in my bag. Also, my ideal bag consolidates a lot of different bags. On many days, I carry a gym bag so I'd like to avoid having 2 additional bags (purse + laptop bag) on top of that.

I did a lot of soul searching and I'm mostly decided but here are some of the bags I'm looking at. Consider this a highly curated list of the "best work appropriate bags for ladies who like large (and organized) laptop bags that look as good as they function." That's not a mouthful! Continue reading "Candidates for a Work Appropriate Laptop bag"

In Defense of Cold Feet

Right now the temperature is starting to warm up in New York. However, it's inevitable: winter will be here again before we know it.

Ned Stark in Game of Thrones
#winteriscoming

And every winter, I'm freezing to death because at some point in time I wore the wrong shoes. Like that time I was going to Philadelphia and needed a headphone splitter so my husband and I could co-watch a movie on the bus ride down. I spent the better part of an hour searching for one while the snow came down around me. All I found was that my boots had sprung a leak and that apparently the only place to buy dry socks in TriBeCa is at the Equinox where you will spend too much money for them (do rich people not need socks?!).

Continue reading "In Defense of Cold Feet"

The Pink One: Designing for Women

Inc Magazine published an amazing piece by Jen Alsever in 2014 outlining how companies should market tech to women. In short: Houston, we have a pink problem!

I have no idea where this came from but there appears to be some prevailing logic among marketers (perhaps mostly the male decision makers? I digress…) that women will buy something as long as the item in question is pink. Perhaps the worst (and simultaneously best!) example of this is when BIC, the company that creates writing implements, decided to create "BIC for Her." The marketing for this pen — which, by the way, was just like their other pens except pink on the outside — seemed to imply that women had been waiting eons and FINALLY the good folks at BIC created a pen for the ladies! Needless to say, Amazon reviewers have had a field day with this.

Today I discovered that KOSS, a brand that creates affordable headphones that I happen to really like, has a rather unfortunate filtering criteria on their shopping website.

forwomen

Within the "earbuds" category, KOSS' filtering criteria tells me that in the "For Women" category there is only one option. Who on earth decided that of the 20 earbuds listed on their shop, only one pair was appropriate for women? And furthermore, who decided that the "FitBuds" (which come in colors like Coral and Mint!) are exclusively for women? Do men not enjoy colorful earbuds? And, while I can acknowledge that maybe some women have smaller ears, surely having small ears / ear canals is not a problem exclusively faced by women. That said, I own earbuds from KOSS; the ones I own are not in the "For Women" category which begs the question: why even have a "For Women" category at all? How about filtering criteria based on scale (large buds / medium buds / small buds)? Or filtering criteria based on color (colorful / printed design / black)?

Not only is the KOSS approach lazy but it's also insulting and demeaning to women. While brands probably do not intend for this to be the result, they are making assumptions about a market they are trying to reach. These assumptions are simply validating that they know very little about the market they are aiming for and have done very little to educate themselves. And I say it is lazy because, per Alsever's second point in the Inc article, "women" is pretty broad as far as being a segment you are looking to target.

In the past, I came down on the Coach handbag company for this but it seems like their website has evolved! Their marketing used to infer that their beautiful leather totes and briefcases were only of interest to men. Their web shopping experience used to put all of these bags under the "Men" heading. Now, I'm happy to say that under "Women" they have a "Business Bag" category which includes many of the fine leather bags that are gender neutral. They also have a "For Everyone" header which is nice to see for gender identities that aren't so black and white.

In short, I've reached out to KOSS on their Twitter account to implore them to fix their filtering. Given that I do really enjoy using their products, I hope they will consider making some efforts to avoid pink-washing their marketing.

Wearables for Women

Wearable tech has been all the rage for a little while now. Everyone is glued to their mobile phone so it seems perfectly reasonable to wear something on our body that makes that connection a bit more seamless. The NIKE Fuel Band was an attractive option but was primarily geared at folks who were interested in measuring their physical fitness rather than the number of likes on their latest Instagram photo. Alternatively, the Moto 360 Smart Watch is — quite frankly — very smartly designed and a great companion for an Android phone…but it is LARGE and in charge. For a woman with a slight wrist like myself, the 360 is simply ginormous.

While I'm a firm believer that companies don't need to make a "pink one" to appeal to women, I do believe that the wearables market is a bit more nuanced. This might sound vain, but I'm in the market to buy a wearable and would like to have something I'm likely to wear daily meaning that it is less likely to clash with my existing wardrobe. Since I am in the market for such a device, I started doing some research to see what exists besides the obvious wrist devices from Jawbone, Samsung, Nike and Motorola. I found that there are quite a few options but none seems to stand out as a clear definitive winner.

MICA cuff designed by Opening Ceremony
MICA cuff designed by Opening Ceremony
One such option is the high concept Opening Ceremony designed MICA cuff by Intel. The website for this product (and reviews I came across) are pretty light on what the technical specs are for this. It's described as a "beautiful bracelet first, a brilliant piece of wearable technology second." This seems to explain the lack of tech specifications as it appears technology is taking a back seat here (which begs the question: do you think women aren't interested in these details?!). As far as I can tell, it doesn't need to be tied to a wearer's mobile phone but then I have so many questions! How do you manage what it knows about you? What is the UI like for setting this up? Can I talk to it (to dictate messages, for example)? Will it talk to me (to feed me real-time directions while I'm walking or driving)? I assume we'll hear a little bit more about this when it actually hits real consumers who have pre-ordered the MICA for delivery in Q1 of 2015. Rebecca Minkoff has a similar offering coming as part of a collaboration with Case-Mate but, per the fashion industry trend, the focus of all communications thus far is on how great the device will look and not so much about how it will become essential to my life.

MEMI wearable bangle
MEMI wearable bangle
An alternative to this is the MEMI (not sure why we're always yelling these product names!) which is closer to the MICA but definitely less feature rich. In the case of the MEMI, it is a bangle with the ability to vibrate and flash some lights. You then configure what these vibrations and flashing lights mean to you so they can serve as important alerts. Their website indicates that you sync it to your cellphone so you'll need to be within range of the device — er, actually, your iDevice as MEMI is only compatible with iPhone 4S and newer. There is definitely some value to having a way for important communications or notifications to "breakthrough" (as they put it) to your bracelet but it feels like it falls a little flat due to its lack of any sort of screen. It wins points for being discreet, but I don't see this working its way into my everyday life. I think a successful wearable should be something that I would feel naked if I left the house without.

Ringly's "Dive Bar" option
Ringly's "Dive Bar" option
Ringly is another wearable, similar to MEMI, except instead of a bracelet, it is a ring that resembles costume jewelry. I kinda dig the one called Dive Bar (it's sooo pretty…) but at $195, it's a bit steep. The manufacturers of Ringly appear to have a nicely designed app by which you can customize your ring to vibrate and change colors for a variety of different notification events. Unlike MEMI, Ringly is compatible with both iOS and Android-based phones. Of course, Ringly is still consumption only it seems. It just pushes notifications to the ring and doesn't offer any means of responding to certain notifications (like calls or text messages, for example). This bothers me a lot about the women's wearables market as I'm noticing a trend. There's very little focus on helping increase productivity (can a girl get a text auto responder at least?). In the case of Ringly, their website indicates you can have a special alert to know when "he texted"; MEMI mentions you can get special alerts for when the babysitter calls — because the babysitter would be calling you, not your husband, because you know, normative gender roles and all that. I get that these are valid use cases for their devices, but they feel really limiting to me.

Yikes, Cuff! Why is she in an alley looking over her shoulder?!
Yikes, Cuff! Why is she in an alley looking over her shoulder?!
Speaking of limiting, a more scary entrant to women's wearables is Cuff. Cuff's positioning is that women need to be notified, tracked and kept. While its app pushes notifications to your bauble of choice — you have the choice of a few different bracelets plus a necklace — the wearable itself has a "Life Alert" type button that, when activated, notifies people (your "In Case of Emergency" list, essentially) that you may be in an emergency situation. This, for me, is a little terrifying; first, this makes the idea of a butt dial so much less innocuous. Usually, when I receive an unintended phone call, I assume the person accidentally called me; with Cuff, I'd have to assume my friend is in dire need of help and with the help of Cuff's geolocation assistance, go find her. Second, I think this is basically saying that women need to have a safety device on their person at all times because you never know when you are going to be abducted. What a terrible thought! Doesn't everyone need a quick way of getting in touch with their ICE contacts (I'm surprised this isn't built into iOS…)? Why is this targeted at women? And, in a real emergency, would a woman think to use her cuff to call a friend? Would this help or hinder in a real emergency? You can decide — Cuff is available for pre-order and ships March 2015 for both iPhone and Android.

Screen Shot 2015-08-07 at 7.46.58 AMA more straightforward entrant to the wearables market from the fashion world is Tory Burch. Burch has actually partnered with Fitbit to essentially create "cases" for their Flex tracker product. Instead of the band typically associated with Fitbit products, Fitbit Flex users can insert their Flex into various Tory Burch wearable accessories. At current time, there are three different finish options for a cuff and three different finish options for a pendant. The pendant seems to be an elegant solution to counting your steps while also looking elegant for a business meeting, for example. However, as you can guess, this integration purely tracks your activity and, unlike some of the other examples noted, doesn't provide any degree of interaction or push notification.

So, while wearable technology has been flooding the market lately, it doesn't appear that there are any clear definitive winners — especially with many products officially coming to market in the first half of 2015. With the Apple Watch set to debut in Q2 of 2015, it will be interesting to see how that changes the market. Personally, I'm very curious to see how the Apple device will impact the market of wearables for women, specifically. Apple doesn't market its devices specifically to women but they've already indicated their watch will come in a smaller size that seems to respond to the fact that many existing wearable watches (like the Motorola watch) are just too large for some wrists. That said, I'm not fully sold on the Apple Watch based on what I've seen so far. But then again, I said the same thing about the iPad and now I happily tote one around on my travels.

If you've tried any of the devices I've noted, please feel free to let me know in the comments!

On Being an Adult: Handling Conflict in Professional Settings

There's a story of some weight unfolding around some people in the tech community who were fired as a result of some offensive-leaning comments made at PyCon. I won't go into too much detail but basically a woman, Adria Richards, overheard some comments which she deemed to be offensive. She tweeted about them and included in said tweet a photo she snapped of the men who made the comments. The men's identity was eventually confirmed by the conference organizers and not only were they booted from the conference but they also lost their jobs. Richards, who tweeted about the behavior that she deemed to be offensive, has also lost her job. Reactions to the story have been mixed. Should the guys have made the comments? Should the photo have been posted on Twitter? Were the comments blown out of proportion? Should anyone have been fired? Everyone has their own opinion and, for better or for worse (I hear Richards is on the receiving end of threats of bodily harm), the right to express that opinion.

I don't want to fan any flames here so I won't go into my opinion on the matter. To be honest, the issue is not black and white so I'm sure we could discuss that for hours on end. My objective is to talk about something that never really gets discussed as much as it should: conflict resolution in professional environments. Continue reading "On Being an Adult: Handling Conflict in Professional Settings"

Watching This is Like Watching Clueless: HBO's New Series GIRLS

Over the past few weeks, my social networks have been abuzz about the new HBO series, Girls. Girls is the brainchild of Lena Dunham who is currently a media darling after her film Tiny Furniture was received with much acclaim on the festival circuit. The 26 year-old Dunham, who writes and directs Girls, also stars in the show as the character Hannah. Among my contacts, the Judd Apatow produced show has received mixed reviews but I decided to watch the pilot (currently available on YouTube) and give it a chance. This is my take and I would warn you that there may be some spoilers in the following so you may want to watch first and read the rest of this after you watch.

The pilot begins with the character Hannah having dinner with her parents at what appears to be a fancy restaurant. As she shovels food into her mouth, her parents begin to slowly reveal that they no longer wish to bankroll her New York City lifestyle. We find out Hannah has been out of college for two years now and is working an internship while trying to finish writing her memoirs. At the time of this writing, I'm just a couple of years older than Dunham as I'm going on 28 years-old in July. When I was two years out of college, I wasn't working an unpaid internship while my parents paid for all of my expenses. On the contrary, I had to work. Immediately following graduation, I found a job. Not particularly well paid compared to some of the jobs my classmates landed at financial firms, but it was a job nonetheless — it paid the bills. In Girls, the prospect of having to try and find a job horrifies Hannah and she spend most of the rest of the scene arguing with her parents and trying to convince them to continue to financially support her. I know lots of twenty-somethings, and most of them don't behave this way.

Later in the episode, we are introduced to Hannah's best friend Marnie played by the stunning Allison Williams. Williams actually feels like the most realistic character. She is portrayed as an ice queen as her boyfriend clearly likes her far more than she likes him. Marnie and Hannah even discuss the possibility of Marnie potentially breaking up with him because he is simply too nice for Marnie. This character is at least self aware as she notes "I feel like such a bitch" for wanting to dump a guy who, as far as we know, has been nothing but doting. However, I have a qualm with this scene: who hangs out in the tub naked with their girlfriends shaving their legs together? I dormed in college and, Judd Apatow, I can assure you this probably happens less often than you'd like to believe! Also, we hear that they watch Mary Tyler Moore together but, correct me if I'm wrong, Mary Tyler Moore was a WORKING GIRL. These girls don't seem to do much of anything, but we'll get to that in due time.

To follow the Sex and the City mold, Girls appears to follow four primary protagonists with Dunham playing the lead (the Carrie role, if you will). The next character introduced, Shoshanna, even makes reference to this. She points out her Sex and the City poster to her new roommate, British cousin Jessa. Shoshanna, played by Zosia Mamet, is over the top in her enthusiasm for the show and which Sex and the City character she most embodies. While I don't think it's a stretch, what should have been a nod with a smirk to a former HBO heavyweight and similarly themed series is instead a long, drawn out, drunken overt surly wink. To say it felt forced is an understatement.

When Hannah's character is at her internship, we meet our first minority — the Asian graphic designer who is apparently more valuable than Hannah because she knows Photoshop! Her scene ends swiftly as Hannah's boss interprets her "I can't afford to work for free anymore" comment as "I quit." This then leads Hannah into the arms of her actor lover with whom we can assume she's had an off again, on again history. They wax poetic about the working world and the lover, Adam, confesses that his parents don't support him — wait for it — his grandma does! Adam's grandma gives him $800 a month towards living expenses so, as he puts it, "I don't have to be anyone's slave." At this point, I'm almost ready to turn off the TV and walk away. Again, I'm not in my 30's — I'm a twenty-something with lots of twenty-something friends. My friends who aspire to be actors work their fucking asses off. Most of them work crappy jobs at Starbucks or administrative assistant gigs that give them the flexibility to go out on auditions and work on their personal projects. It's not easy for them and most of them don't have their grandma's giving them what amounts to rent every month.

The interaction between Hannah and Adam is so awkward it hurts. Hannah can stand up to her parents to try and make them give her money but she's weak and powerless when with Adam? She asks Adam to retrieve a condom before they have sex and he replies "I'll consider it." Later, she confides in him about how her rapid weight gain spurred her tattoos to which he replies, "You're not that fat anymore." All of this seems normal to Hannah; she doesn't bat an eye. And their sex scene is probably the worst of it; I know premium television seems to require them, but in this case it really didn't seem necessary at all.

Finally, toward the end of the episode, Hannah — who is now high on some sort of opium tea — decides to storm into her parent's hotel room and demand that they support her because she has a "voice of a generation." If Lena Dunham's voice is the voice of a generation then it clearly isn't mine. Her voice, which I assume is scattered over all these characters, tells of a breed of entitled bratty little girls. In keeping with the entitlement, Hannah pleads "All I'm asking for is $1100 per month every month for the next 2 years." Wow, what I would've given to have someone gift me $1100 per month! Instead, I had to earn it. And to be honest with you, I probably earned that much working while I was in college full time!

The end of the episode leaves a particularly bad taste in my mouth. Hannah's parents check out of the hotel and Hannah wakes up in their hotel room, alone. Her first inclination is to order room service! Yes, room service after her parents explained how they can't afford to, you know, pay for this make-believe lifestyle she leads. Upon finding that the room service tab is fully closed, she decides she should leave before housekeeping comes. On the hotel room desk, she finds an envelope addressed to her with some money. Her parents also left an envelope on the desk for housekeeping. Hannah steals the money left for housekeeping and pockets it before leaving. Oh, and by the way, at the end of the episode we get minority sighting #2; the homeless black man that sings at Hannah as she walks down Sixth Avenue. I thought there were more minorities in New York City, but I guess I'm just mistaken.

One of my friends, who saw this show before I did, described the girls as "vapid" and I can't say I blame her. Girls is a terrible portrayal of elite, entitled twenty-somethings living a fantasy Disney princess life in New York City on borrowed money and/or trust funds. But perhaps I'm not part of the key demographic for this show as I'm not white, I don't live outside my means and I don't have other people footing my cable bill? To be honest, this makes me rather sad. I was looking forward to Girls being an exploration of coming of age as women in a big city where you need to work hard (and sometimes get a lucky break here and there) to survive. Instead, it was a bunch of unredeemable adult characters acting like little girls. But, as the title suggests, maybe that's the point. Though, after that pilot, I won't be sticking around to find out.

Where did all the cowgirls go?

I recently read a blog post by Clay Shirky about the difference between how women talk about their own abilities versus men. He wishes that more women would stand up and exert their influence because women are just as talented, smart and capable as their more effusive male colleagues. I wish for this, too.

In fact, many other women wish for this as well. COO of Facebook Sheryl Sandberg has given many a talk aimed at women. She says that women should take a seat at the table and not count themselves out by default because they want to have a family. Sheryl is living proof that it is possible to maintain a family and still be successful; and she acknowledges the challenges that come with that.

However, she also touches upon the big elephant in the room that many who talk about the disparities between men and women fail to acknowledge. A man who goes for the gold is assertive. A woman who does the same is off-putting at best, and at worst simply labeled a "bitch." Often when I say this, people roll their eyes; Sheryl present a famous Harvard Business school study that proves this is not simply "women getting easily offended" or "being emotional" (which, by the way, is another topic for another day).

It's an issue that permeates regardless of industry. In politics, Hilary Clinton was often given that label. Her wardrobe of pants suits and "attack dog" stance during her campaign gave her a harsh exterior in the public eye to both women and men. Tina Fey of Saturday Night Live commented on the whole thing and turned it into a positive with the saying "Bitches get shit done."

I love that sketch because I sympathize. I am good at my job. I get things done. If that wasn't true, I wouldn't now be earning nearly triple what I was offered upon graduation in 2006 (in a "bad economy", to boot!). However, as a result of my focus on process, keeping on schedule, and GSD (getting shit done), I am sure that there are many colleagues, past and present, who think I'm a bitch. In fact, I can name them (and there are, unfortunately, women among them).

And the truth of the matter is, I'm not a difficult person to work with. Despite going to school for Computer Science, I'm self-taught at a lot of things, lousy at some others and definitely still have quite a bit to learn. This invigorates me to learn more but also terrifies me at the same time; being in technology, I sometimes feel the need to know everything and be on the cutting edge. This isn't necessarily true, but motivates me to keep on my toes and at the very least stay relevant in a few things (and, given current trends, looks like my decision not to dive head first into Flash development wasn't so bad after all).

But the point of writing this wasn't to brag about myself. The point is that yes, women need to step up to the plate more to brag and take credit — myself included. Often times, we shy away or defer to others when we know what the right answer is. This is a problem of self-doubt and wavering self-esteem that perhaps everyone has at times but tends to be more evident among women. However, the flip side of that is let's call a spade a spade. When a woman steps up, do we encourage it? Or do we add to this doubt — do we doubt her abilities because of predisposed notions? Continue reading "Where did all the cowgirls go?"

Magazines and Women

I'm a big fan of magazines. While I usually stick with fashion magazines, lately I've been reading some other more business oriented titles. This year, Anthony and I started our own company for our personal pursuits and I felt really lost throughout the process. So when I got the opportunity to redeem some points for magazine subscriptions, I decided to go with a few titles that would help me wrap my head around our business needs. I subscribed to Inc Magazine, Entrepreneur and Fast Company.

I've really enjoyed my subscription to Inc Magazine. I find their articles to be super informative and their interviews, like recent ones with execs from Tumblr and Kid Robot, to be truly inspiring. And, for what it's worth, I appreciate the attention to detail in the graphic layout of the pages themselves. I love that it's a happy marriage of helpful content and creative design. I also like that the magazine is not written for a particular gender. Women and men alike can pick it up and get something out of it. This is not to say that every magazine should do this, but it's nice that a magazine marketing towards small business owners does not discriminate.

Unfortunately, I can't say the same for Entrepreneur. Now, working in technology in various industries, I've realized it's a boy's club — not that that's entirely a bad thing! I've worked with some pretty talented men and learned a lot from them (most notably that the lack of women in their midst is mostly an oversight, not intentional). I also happen to like a lot of things men typically like more than most women (sports, fried foods, gadgets) so it doesn't really bother me to spend time in the company of dudes. Continue reading "Magazines and Women"