Dear brand managers, this juicy little post is for you. Some of you will know these things and may be acting on them, some of you have sensed it and this post may help you clarify your mission and support you in meetings, and some of you (usually men) may be trying to ignore it, which would be a mistake because . . .
In western countries this percentage is closer to 80%. (Multiple sources: Boston Consulting Group, Women Want More by Michael J. Silverstein and Kate Sayre, (Harper Collins 2009), The Economist: Guide to Womenomics and Why She Buys by Bridget Brennan (Crown Business 2011).)
Worldwide women’s buying power is rising far more rapidly than men’s. But—as women know better than anybody—most products and services are rarely created or marketed to satisfy women's specific needs, wants and expectations.
One reason for this is that, though there are ever growing numbers of women in management, women still tend to be less well represented in the upper decision making levels of many companies where they have the final say. And furthermore, men have a limited understanding of female values and preferences. The following statistics put this into sharp perspective:
- Women influence 91% of all home purchases.1
- Women drive an estimated 70-80% of consumer spending with their purchasing power and influence.2
- Roughly 75% of women identified themselves as the primary shoppers for their households.3
- Women are responsible for 62% of all grocery shopping trips, and spend more money on average per trip than men.4
- Women buy online more than men, with 12.5% of female Internet users compared to 9.3% of men.5
- Nearly half of women surveyed say that marketers don't understand them (some studies put this as high as 91%).6
- Over 90% of the head creative director roles at the top 100 US advertising agencies are occupied by men.7 (And across Europe female membership on company boards is only 16.6%.8)
If you do not believe this quotation, consider that as recently as 1974 it was difficult for a married woman in the United States to get a credit card (Forbes).
At Butterflies & Hurricanes, a female led company, we believe that the preferences and values of women should be among the top considerations when creating products, brands, and marketing. And the research backs this up. We consider this in our concepts, designs and consultations with companies.
One Danish study completed in 2012 found that women’s needs are even less well represented in the tech innovation sector than in the market as a whole. (And as shopping and technology are becoming ever more entwined into a single experience, via smartphones and Internet shopping, this is extremely important.)
The research team for the Danish study was made up of university researchers and experts in market analysis, interaction psychology, and user-centered design. Their findings will not surprise many women.Michelle Obama echoed this sentiment, if not this study, in recent comments aimed at Apple."Who are you marketing to?" Obama said. "Who do you think is going to use these apps? If women aren't at the table, you're saying you don't really care about my dollar. You're going to miss a lot of what I want because you don't really know me."
TECHNOLOGY AND WOMEN
As I mentioned above shopping, branding, and marketing are all merging with technology into a single experience—this is something many men still do not seem to fully comprehend, and when they do they tend to miss-interpret half of the equation.
Smart phones, social media, and Internet shopping are being used by women and men in surprisingly different ways. If any of those are part of your marketing strategy—and they should be—this distinction becomes extremely important. And what is interesting is that us women tend to notice these differences and include them in their strategic thinking more than men.
The Century of Women
Here is the good news. The 21st Century has been called the Century of Women. Here I include some European numbers and similar numbers for the US for comparison. Here are five areas where our female participation is increasingly driving the economy:
- Educational Attainment: In Europe 9.5% more women achieved higher education degrees than men in 2014, compared to 8% in 2012. In the United States women are also earning more of all higher education degrees than men: Bachelor's Degrees: 57% women1; Master’s Degrees: 60% women2 ; Doctoral Degrees: 51% women3. These statistical trends indicate that women will continue to become a more and more dominant force in the consumer economy in Europe and the US.1
- Labor Force Participation: Across Europe the gender gap between men and women working continues to shirnk, to some extent it appears that the higher a country’s GDP the lower the gender gap, though culture has a stronger impact on this. In Finland only 2.1% more men work than women, In Sweden t is 4.2%, 16.6% in the Czech Republic; the lowest is Malta at 27.8%. In the United States. 70% of women with children under 18 work outside the home.4 Which means these women have two jobs and less time for shopping and other essentials, they therefore expect more service and convenience specific to their needs.2
- Breadwinner Status: Women are the primary or only breadwinners in 40% of U.S. households with children under 18.5 This means the old assumptions about what a "typical" breadwinner looks like, in both images and communication, often no longer apply. (I wasn’t able to find this statistic for Europe as a whole but for Great Britain is is 20% and in Germany it is 19%; lower than in the US but growing.)3
- Management and Professional Positions: Women hold slightly more than half of all management, professional and related occupations.6 And though across Europe female membership on company boards is only 16.6%7 the trend indicates this is steadily increasing. Multiple studies show that increased participation from women in leadership roles, as well as gender-balanced teams, yields significant results and better outcomes for organizations.4
- Wealth: Women control 51% of wealth in the US.8 This means that as women continue to create and inherit wealth, their impact on virtually every "big ticket" consumer industry—from banking to automotive to housing and insurance—will only increase in the coming years.5
1. National Center for Education Statistics, Digest of Education Statistics, Table 322.20, 2014
2. National Center for Education Statistics, Digest of Education Statistics, Table 323.20, 2014
3. National Center for Education Statistics, Digest of Education Statistics, Table 324.20, 2014
4. U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, 2014
5. Pew Research Center, Nov. 3 2014
6.U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, Current Population Survey, U.S. Household Data, Table 11, 2016.
7. “Women and men in leadership positions in the European Union”, 2013, European Commission Report, Oct. 2013.
8. BMO Wealth Institute, Financial Concerns of Women, 2015
More evidence the 21st Century will belong to women
- The trend towards more women working is almost certain to continue. In the European Union women have filled 6m of the 8m new jobs created since 2000. In America three out of four people thrown out of work since the recession began are men; the female unemployment rate is 8.6%, against 11.2% for men.
- Women will also be the beneficiaries of the growing “war for talent”. The combination of an ageing workforce and a more skill-dependent economy means that countries will have to make better use of their female populations.
- Because women’s life expectancy is growing (82.4 years for women compared to 76.6 for men) companies are looking at women working longer, which means time off for children is a smaller portion of their working years.
- Faster change is likely as women exploit their growing economic power. Many talented women are already hopping off the corporate treadmill to form companies that better meet their needs. In the past decade the number of privately owned companies started by women in America has increased twice as fast as the number owned by men.
Conclusion: The number of women working and their economic power is surging, and businesses and brands that want to benefit from this sea change, or even survive it, must evolve to better serve women as customers, clients and decision makers. And as women’s economic power grows their needs, desires and the way they shop will continue to change drastically. And who better to help companies stay on top of these changes than the women leading these trends? And ladies, if you can’t manage to change your companies from the inside, start your own! I did, and I was pregnant with my second of three children at the time. It has not been easy, but it is possible, and it has been wonderful.