Many people think that any product that is meant for women (or girls), is the same product that is sold to men, but the color or colors have been changed to pink or purple (or whatever is considered to be a color that appeals to women).
However, as a woman, I can spot these types of products quickly, and disregard them even faster because they don't speak to me and are poorly branded.
Good branding is more than just having "the right colors". Good brading is about understanding your customers (in this case, women), and being able to design a product that has a message that speaks to them in their own language and conveys values that are important to them. The best of products like these end up being not only something that the customers want but something that they feel they absolutely need.
No matter the amount of glitter or pink is going to make women developers buy a product, if it doesn't speak to them.
In this post, I'm not talking about what the product itself is (examples in this post vary from shirts to stationery to shower curtains) and how that affects the marketing. There are details like what item the product actually is, what material(s) it's made of, what size and color it is, but these aspects need a blog post of their own (and I'm working on one).
In this post I'm focusing only on the message or text that is on the products.
I'm giving some examples about some very good and some very bad products that seem to be targeted at women developers. And I've also included a section for the boring and generic products, that are clearly targeted at women developers, but as these products don't speak to us and about those things that are important to us, we forget them faster than you can write
rm -r bad_merch.
Note: the links to the products are not affiliate links, and I don't get anything from linking to them. I am mainly providing links to save you time from searching them on the internet, if you happen to want to buy them.
Knowing your target customers means knowing what they value, what they think often and kind of things they encounter in life. Putting thoughts and phrases that center these values will make really products.
Being a male dominated industry, so many companies, teams and people seem to talk and care about are hard values (money, price, speed, efficiency). I would really like to talk about how the software and the people writing it should talk about soft values. After all, we are in the software industry.
If only we could stop wars as easily as we can force kill some operating system processes... Oh well, a woman can dream. In the mean time, declare variables, not war!
Difficult phenomena women encounter often
Now this product is a rarity I thought I would never see: something that mentions periods and made me curious about a programming language I don't know. Ship this to me now! 😍
Women face many obstacles in the technology industry. Having this sticker (and the #shecoded / #theycoded campaign) say it out that it takes energy to continue, but the we are doing it anyway, means so much. Thank you Dev for having this campaign and these amazing stickers! 🥳
Good jokes about dating
Listening to women's preferences about dating... Now that's my idea of a great boyfriend and dev merch product!
Finding a combination of some niche hobby and programming, and making a pun or joke about them, is the perfect way to speak to women developers (and other people too, thb). Some of these hobbies that I mention are of course something that anyone, not just women, can be interested in.
Coffee types ☕
Why are there so many products that mention coffee, but never specify the type of the coffee? As a woman and a latte addict, I would love to see more merchandise that includes different coffee types. Where are the products joking about flat whites, cappuccinos, macchiatos and programming?
Women developers and cats? Purr-fect combination!
Yoga is maybe the most common exercise hobby among women. As yogi myself, I would love to see more yoga related merch! After all, programming and doing yoga are both a practice.
Being a mom and having kids 👩👧👦
Many women have kids and I'm sure [although I myself don't have kids] that there are a lot more jokes to be made about being a mom and a developer! Here are a few.
I don't have a migraine or don't have headaches very often, but I know many women who have them. I think it's refreshing to see this health issue used as a topic and a punchline that doesn't blame the person suffering from migraine/headaches, but connects everyone through something we all find stressful and difficult - when our code is not working, or when we have to support every possible browser 🙈
This is a wonderful way to normalise migraines and headaches, and not accuse individuals suffering from them ❤️
Alright, cars might not be such a common hobby among women, and yes, the cars themselves aren't the main reason why I picked this product. I picked this because if you were to replace cars with e.g. shoes or clothes, this would be something I would buy immediately. Plus, women do make excellent mechanics/car hobbyists, when they are interested in cars! And when you like cars, I bet that the garage tends to fill itself, although, taking less space than
Cooking and baking 👩🍳
For the women who cook and bake - I'm so sorry to see there aren't more puns about programming and these hobbies. I laughed when I read this though: how-to-make-lasagna brilliant! Could someone make something similar with browser cookies? 🍪
These examples are quite different from the rest in this post, I wanted to include them, since they are so brilliant. These don't have any written text on them, just a graphic element, so the message is not verbal, but aesthetic.
To me, these have a bit of a hidden meaning - they don't scream out loud that "I am a developer", but other developers will recognise that these are somehow code related.
These kind of designs could have text on them, but the text would have to have a message that emphasises the meaning or message of the image (which might be very difficult). I think that all the other examples in this post are verbal-message-first designed: first you have the idiom, text or message, and then, if available, a related picture is added to create added interest. With these, it's the graphical idea first, then text, if needed, but probably not (we don't need text if the image says it all).
Immeadiately when I saw this product, I cursed the fact that I'm a front end developer and not a data scientist. Yes, the punchline is THAT good. And I think it's so good exactly because it is re-frasing a very old, very stereotypical profession that is expected of and offered to women, but especially beautiful women. Re-frasing "modelling" as a data-related action is simply brilliant.
I wish I had more examples in this category, but currently I don't. I will keep looking and update this section if I come across any. And if you know some products that are also giving a new spin to an old stereotype, please let me know in the comments below!
Okay. I contemplated a long time if I should include these or not, and I decided I will, but only because I want to call out the very ideas and topics that these represent.
These are real problems, that are causing pain - not only to women, but to all of their friends, spouses, kids and relatives too - and should not be put into products, used to make money, and worst of all, reproducing and spreading these thought patterns and attitudes to other people.
Examples in this category are NOT FUNNY. (Maybe from the toxic masculinity point of view they are, but that is not the perspective of women.)
Content/trigger warning: objectifying women, shaming women for their lack of skills or productivity, fatphobia, sexualising comments about appearance, pick up artist vocabulary.
If you want to skip this part, feel free to jump to the last part of this post.
To prevent these products getting more clicks and traction, I haven't provided links to them because I don't think that they should get any more traffic.
Shaming based on skills or productivity
Sexualised comments about appearance
Mother shaming, fatphobia
These products are not harmful in the sense that the products in the previous section were. However, I wanted to include these because they are perfect examples of writing or messaging that is done by someone who clearly isn't part of the target group, or doesn't know how to speak to the people in the target group. Women will notice that these messages aren't appealing to them, and that the writer doesn't understand what it is like to be a woman.
Why are there so many products that say "girl" instead of "woman"? If it's because these are targeted at under 18 year olds, that's great, but how about providing the same products with the term "woman" too?
Alright, finally some products with "woman" in them!
But seriously. Someone didn't even run this through a grammar checking program?! 🤦♀️
Listing a relationship through which women and girls are usually defined in the society ("sister" - I'm surprised that this is not followed by "wife", "girlfriend" or "mom") is not a great way to change the world and get men to see us as ourselves - women and humans first, then in relation to some other human beings. "Woman" - good! Absolutely better than "girl". "Developer" - great!
But seriously, although all women would like to introduce themselves as a "legend", putting this here just proves who the maker of this isn't aware how much women and girls are feeling imposter thoughts and how many men see them as unqualified (even if there is a solid track record of their skills).
Okay, even though the text in this one doesn't mention women, I think many more women use these types of "keep calm and..." products that men do, and therefore I included this in this post. However, whether this product is targeted at men, women or non-binary people, even Mark Zuckerberg tells people that it's better to strive to be a developer, not date one. So how about changing this to "keep calm and be a developer"?