The panel started out with some great slides that showed how much more women use technology than men. Women make 70% of the consumer buying decisions, women dominate higher education (140 degrees per 100 for men), and women are more likely to work in health care and education, slightly more resilient to economic swings.
The panelists include Kathleen Naughton (HP), Cathy Lasser (IBM), Wei Lin (Symantec), Divya Kolar Sunder (Intel), Vidya Dinamani (Intuit) and Patty Lopez (Intel).
Vidya said that Intuit has done a lot of lab and in home studies about financial behaviours, and they find that independently men and women behave similarly, but when they are put together to work on things like taxes they see that men are very quick to answer questions while women take the time to understand the questions and make sure they are answering them correctly.
Divya, a recent new mom, talked about shopping for baby products and how troublesome it was to find a diaper bag that worked for both her and her husband and baby bottles that seemed more like mom. She found reading blogs from other mothers, who seem to naturally want to share their experiences, help her find what she needed.
Cathy, from IBM, is actually researching how people shop online. Some of the things they have found is that people are much less likely to return items they've bought online, which makes sense as it's harder. One thing they thought women might like was to have an avatar of sorts so they can see how an outfit would look on them, but it turns out most women don't want to see a 3D image of themselves, so it actually discouraged purchases. An audience member said she felt similarly about shopping in stores, that she didn't like how clothes looked there, but did at home, so she preferred shopping online.
I can get that - it seems many stores always have really awful, harsh overhead lighting that, even when I was a skinny teenager, made me look awful.
A few of the panelists than discussed their thoughts on online retailers doing data mining, mostly saying they are comfortable with this occurring as it so greatly improves their shopping experience. There is some concern that the retailers need to store this and use it in a safe manner, though there doesn't seem to be a good way to check this and currently no standards to protect the consumer. Wei, who works in security at Symantec, disagreed. One of the behaviours she has witnessed that she finds disturbing is when you shop for a type of item at one online retailer and they go somewhere else, you'll get an ad for that item. It's not clear to the consumer if this is a legitimate service or spyware.
Cathy said that a lot more companies are listening to feedback from their customers to redesign things - like NorthFace jackets and providing covers for cell phones to brighten them up so they can be found in purses!
Wei wanted to share some best practices with us: never give out your password, never give out personal information, never open a link or attachment from a stranger, change your password (personal one, too) frequently, use malware and virus detection software from trusted sources, and don't use a debit card for online shopping. Wei also recommends getting a password wallet to help you manage all these passwords, so you can frequently change your password. I would caution you to be careful when choosing such software, as it can also be malware, too! You don't want to make it too easy for the hackers! :-)
There seemed to be a lot of questions about security and best practices for privacy on the Internet, so perhaps the Grace Hopper Conference needs a security and privacy track next year! :-)