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Asking for Help: Men vs. Women

Common wisdom and social-scientific studies hold that men are less likely to ask for help than women are, a phenomenon that spreads across arenas as mundane as asking for directions and as serious as getting help for clinical depression. But according to a recent survey, there’s one realm in which men are more likely to ask others for help faster than women are — technology.

The U.K. tech support service Gadget Helpline found that 64% of men didn’t read the manual before calling for help, while only 24% of women committed this tech-misdemeanor, according to the BBC. That means, in the asking-for-directions analogy, when it comes to technology, men are less likely than women are to scrutinize “the map” (i.e. the manual) before giving up and asking a stranger for directions.

The technology blog Gizmodo attributes this discrepancy to laziness on the part of men. I would go further and argue that it’s part of the same phenomenon by which girls tend to be more diligent students than boys. So, too, women are probably more likely to be diligent consumers, doing their research before coming to ask the teacher a question, or at least following directions more exactly.

Or, perhaps, knowing one’s way technologically is less a point of pride for men than knowing one’s way geographically. While men may be reluctant to admit that their innate sense of direction has failed them and they don’t know the way from point A to point B, they may not have the same expectation of being able to navigate the more specialized fields of technology, gadgetry and electronics on their own.

And ultimately, I think, men may just be so eager to get their new toys working that they don’t want to waste time trying to figure it out by themselves when they can get immediate help from a professional — and without even leaving the house!

I can perfectly understand that impulse, but men and women both would do well to stop for a brief moment to check on the basics before calling tech support. The survey found that 12% of men and 7% of women “simply needed to plug in or turn on their appliance,” a task for which most of us don’t need to consult the manual.

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