- Isabella Lenarduzzi

The Female Economy – How can you benefit from the growing role played by women and from their ever-increasing spending power?

The conclusions of the OECD report* (2014) are clear: women do not only influence the market, they are the market.

According to the Harvard Business Review, women represent a growth market bigger than China and India combined – more than twice as big, in fact. Given than 83% of purchasing decisions are made by women, companies would be foolish to ignore this fabulous opportunity for future growth.

And yet the majority of women believe that the products and services they are being offered do not live up to their expectations. The worst are the financial and health sectors, where 91% of women feel misunderstood by the advertising campaigns. The reason for this is simple: the advertising industry is dominated by men. In advertising agencies, men represent 90% of artistic directors and only one third of creatives are women (US data, no data yet for Europe).

Women are the market, but they are treated as if they were only a niche market.
The norms used in marketing are masculine norms. This is the case in the way women are portrayed in advertising, in the design of the products (women prefer vivid colours and round shapes), in their functionalities, even in the user manuals.

The women targeted by marketers are “housewives under 50”, yet in 8 out of 10 couples both partners are working. And as soon as a woman is over 50, she doesn’t exist for marketers any longer.

Another phenomenon: women are more and more on the other side of business transactions. Although still a minority, more women are running small businesses as well as large multi-national companies. Added to their power as consumers, this is a further factor leading to the increasing impact of women in business. This is what we mean by “The Female Economy“.

The OECD estimates that, if the rate of female participation in the economy was identical to that of men, GDP would increase by 16% in 10 years.

From a microeconomic standpoint, studies show that companies with more gender balance in senior decision-making roles have better performance indicators.

In Nordic countries, there is now a positive correlation between the participation rate of women in the workforce and the birth rate. This suggests that the more a woman works, the more children she has. It is a virtuous circle which further increases the impact of women’s work on the economy.

So …

If women have such a strong impact on the economy in terms of labour and consumption, why are we not really hearing about it?
France is about to join the Nordic countries at the virtuous circle between women’s work and the birth rate. What about the rest of Europe?
Public finances spending cuts affect women more than men and prevent them from working as they would like. Have we analysed these decisions from the point of view of gender and their macroeconomic impact?
If women are to invest themselves more into paid work, men will need to share more of the unpaid work burden that is currently 80% managed by women. Are men really prepared to be women’s best allies in this?

* « The gender and sustainable development: maximising the economic, social and environmental role of women »