Mobilizing: A Generation Of Women With The World At Their Fingertips

What happens when a generation of women have the world and all its knowledge at their fingertips? They mobilize.

Women rule mobile.

It has long been thought that men wholly dominate the technology market, but in 2012 it was reported that women in Western countries are using the Internet more than men, and more importantly, women seem to be the masters of mobile technology. According to research done by Intel's Genevieve Bell:

It turns out women are our new lead adopters. When you look at Internet usage, it turns out women in Western countries use the Internet 17 percent more every month than their male counterparts. Women are more likely to be using the mobile phones they own, they spend more time talking on them, they spend more time using location-based services. But they also spend more time sending text messages. Women are the fastest growing and largest users on Skype, and that's mostly younger women. [...] Women are the vast majority owners of all internet enabled devices—readers, healthcare devices, GPS—that whole bundle of technology is mostly owned by women."

When it comes to mobile technology, remote work, and innovation that untethers innovators from their desks and places new capabilities at their fingertips, women in the United States and in other developed countries are increasingly influential.  And when it comes to the status of women in underdeveloped countries, mobile just might be the solution to gender inequalities in business and society.

A report conducted by the ExxonMobil Foundation and Cherie Blair Foundation for Women found that, "tailored and scaled commercially, mobile technology-based solutions can help women entrepreneurs in developing countries start and grow their businesses." The report examined Indonesia, Egypt, and Nigeria, and found that the adoption of mobile phones represents an opportunity for women entrepreneurs looking to transform their ventures into scalable small businesses. And other researchers agree that empowering women in developing countries can happen by putting cellphones in their hands and giving them access to mobile networks.

In January of this year, Cecelia Bittner, Boryana Dzhambazova and I, all students in NYU’s Studio 20 program, teamed up with Fast Company. The task before us was to gather a group of people (an atomized network, as our professor Jay Rosen refers to it) around a shared work or interest, and connect them to one another to build a network—and use that network for better reporting and better stories.

Two months, hundreds of text messages, over 50 phone calls (none of which involved a landline), and over 10 bi-weekly Google+ hangouts later, we realized just how integral our ability to be mobile—connected but not in the same room—was to working as a team. Not only were we able to communicate with one another consistently and from various locations, but almost every aspect of our work was touched in some way by mobile technologies. It felt fitting to center our network around the ways in which women our age and in our generation are "mobilizing"—using new technologies that enable users to be mobile and more empowered. We were standing right in the center of the phenomenon.

As a whole, mobile technology is changing, and will continue to change, the status of women in business and the way women do business and interact with the world. The tools placed before women raised in an era greatly defined by mobile connectivity have changed the way this generation approaches almost every aspect of life, from what it means to be a teenager to how we manage our finances.  And what this generation of women are doing with mobile is not just important to women, but to everybody. While connecting with young women for the Mobilizing series, we've seen how young women in all fields are utilizing mobile technology, remote applications, internet-enabled devices, and location-based services to better serve their clients, better manage their work and better navigate the digital world we live in. Their lessons are universal and they are making the world a better place.

With new tools, practices and freedoms—-unattached to any specific location—the women that are a part of the Mobilizing series are examples of what happens when a generation of women literally have the world and all its knowledge at their fingertips, in their pockets, and on their kitchen tables: they change the game. We'll tell you how.

And, if you know a woman who is mobilizing (we're sure you do), we would like to hear from you. Tell us about her and let's talk about who's mobilizing together. Let us know here.

[Image: Flickr user Garryknight]


As a part of the Mobilizing series, we will be hosting Twitter chats Wednesdays (beginning April 24, 2013) at 7:30 pm EST, networking in our Facebook group and continuing the conversation at live salon events in New York City. Join in the conversation! And, if you know a woman who is mobilizing we would like to hear from you. Tell us about her here.

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5 Comments

  • ocean1

    Keep in mind that technology is available to affluent, educated women.  Many of the world's women do not have access or education to take advantage of this shift....yet.  Western, techno savvy women must be mindful of the gap and use these new found capacities to bring less advantaged along...including those in our own countries where the economic gap is creating a new underclass.  A generation of women who did not have access to "learn" these new skills...Please be mindful and look for ways to assist those others, male and female. Thank you for great articles here

  • Boryana

    That's a good point, Ocean1. It's fascinating to witness how mobile is kicking off a revolution in developing economies and changing the lives of people in rural and poor communities. Soon we plan to feature one of those mobilizers in our series.

  • Erin Newkirk

    Thanks so much for this important article, Danielle. We pivoted Red Stamp for this exact reason. Red Stamp is on a mission to make relationships stronger, one mobilized send at a time. In 2010, we saw how powerful mobile devices were in the workplace and on the homefront...and wanted to empower our mobilizer clients {90% women, 70% who are 34 and younger} to be able to send correspondence with style and grace. We pounced on it. As a top 1%, award winning app with over 1.25 MM users, we are thankful for mobilizers every single day.

  • Boryana

    I'm glad to hear you like the topic of our series, Erin. It's very interesting to learn that the majority of your mobile users are actually women, most of them 34 and younger. This is consistent with other research which shows that women, indeed, are ruling mobile.