Women control shit now. I mean we always have, indirectly… but it’s becoming more and more directly. Whether men are ready to move over or not, numbers don’t lie. And if money makes the world go ‘round, well then women are controlling more of it than ever before.
As I did some digging, I came across an essay put together by Harvard Business Review that delve into how women are shifting economy. The research conducted by Michael J Silverstein and Kate Sayre suggested that women control a bulk of consumer spending worldwide (as high as 28 Trillion). And interestingly enough, although they do most consumer spending, women still feel dissatisfied with the products and services available to them. Worldwide, women make up for most consumer spending in most countries (especially the United States where women control over 70% of consumerism).
Silverstein and Sayre came up with 6 different “types” of female consumers that’s supposed to help us understand the needs of different female consumers based on their individual goals, income, and stage of life. The 6 types they came up with were labeled:
The Fast Tracker
The Pressure Cooker
The Relationship Focused
The Managing on her Own
The Fulfilled Empty Nester
The Making Ends Meat
I definitely had a few issues with some generalizations used to come up with those six categories, but I do get that for the sake of understanding we have to give things labels to notice useful patterns. So, I think these categories do allow for a decent illustration of the changing needs of women at different points in their different lives, and helps in a way, move us farther away from the lonely working woman vs the unfulfilled housewife binary.
For example, “The Fast Trackers” are comprised of of women who are educated and elite, and who occupy the highest income brackets (24% of females and control 34% the earned income). She may be single or married, and she may have kids or not; the important characteristic of women who fall in this category is that they are striving for personal success, and they prioritize recognition for their accomplishments in this particular stage of their life.
Women who are “Fast Trackers” are going to have very different needs than a “Pressure cooker” for example. By the way, I hate how that fucking sounds: Pressure Cookers. Anyways, “Pressure Cookers” are women who are married with children and occupy the middle class and lower income brackets (23% of female consumer and control 23% of earned income among women). These women are great multitaskers, but often feel overwhelmed and stereotyped in their everyday life. These conflicting priorities make “Fast Trackers” and “Pressure Cookers” very different consumers.
A third category involves women who are “relationship focused”. These women are focused on their committed relationships, are in middle and lower income brackets and are either single, or married without kids. The women who are considered relationship focused value experiences over products and are not usually pressed for time when making decisions on whether to buy some shit or not.
I think the next few categories are the most interesting because these women are often underrepresented by mainstream media and therefore ignored by a majority of consumer brands.
The women who fit the “managing on her own” mold make up 10% of female consumers and 9% of female income. She is newly single (either divorced or widowed), occupies the higher income brackets, and her spending is driven by ways to form connections with the outside world.
The next category was interesting to me because my mom falls in this category and I’m always struggling with figuring out what the fuck she needs. She seems like she’s literally got everything under control, but I feel like she’s always struggling to find products that she loves. According to Silverstein and Sayre, the “Empty Nesters” comprise 15% of the population and 16% percent of earned female income. They belong to the elite and upper middle class, they prioritize health, aging gracefully and yearn to travel, exercise, and find ways to enjoy their free time. Interesting.
The last category they identified were referred to as “making ends meet”. This group is made up of the lower middle class and lower income brackets, who have no kids, or whose kids have grown up, and are widowed or divorced. Essentially, their nest is empty, and they still struggle for stability. This group makes up 12% of the population and they tend to stay away from leisure spending, seek ways to build credit, and prefer small luxuries. They also spend the least on beauty and exercise.
As much as I hate to categorize anyone, especially women in any context, I do think this assessment of different types of female consumers sheds insight on the need for brands to cater to the many different needs of the modern woman.
So why the fuck should anyone care? Here’s why: MONEY! There are trillions of dollars in untapped industries that could better cater to the real needs of women. Even though women control most of the spending, studies show they still feel very ignored by financial institutions, they are unsatisfied with healthcare, and yearn for more products that can accommodate to their ever growing list of responsibilities. As more money falls into the hands of women, so does the need for a deeper understanding of the female consumer and why she’s buying what she’s buying.
For example, the growth of social entrepreneurship could be due to the fact that women control more of the spending now, and studies show women tend to buy from companies who strive to do some good for the world.
Research shows more women should be in key decision making positions within financial institutions, health insurance companies, and beauty industries. More women should also pursue social entrepreneurship as female consumers favor patronizing companies who seek to do good for women (over doing good for the world in general).
The key to the financial success of most companies in the current and future economy will be catering more effectively to the needs of the female consumer.
Women are evolving quickly, they are differentiating in society, and we are moving farther and farther away from outdated stereotypes of the bored housewife, vs the lonely career woman.
Products and services tailored to the changing needs of women present trillions of dollars in untapped wealth. So basically, the future is female. Give us what we really fucking need.
Silverstein, Michael J , and Kate Sayre. "The Female Economy ." Harvard Business Review on Strategic Marketing 2013: 97-111. Print. Harvard Business School Publishing