OMD Sense latest
The Economist has identified that the world economy will increasingly be based on ‘womenomics’.
The pay gap is finally closing in, women are outstripping men academically and they are spending exponentially more, taking advantage of an increase in spending power of more than 50 per cent in the last 20 years.
Sources rate women making as high as 80 per cent of consumer buying decisions, including those for traditionally male products such as cars and electronics.
Women currently make up 57 per cent of university entrants, the majority of trainee barristers and 2/3 of medical students – compared with only 29 per cent in the early 1990s.
If current trends continue, most doctors will be female by 2012. With far more female graduates coming out of our universities than male graduates, in 30 years time, when these people reach the peak of their careers, the entire management structure of Britain will have been transformed.
The Spice Girls talked about girl power, a pop catchphrase. We’re calling this trend Woman Power. Why? Strictly speaking, this power goes beyond economics, and signals a refreshing new perspective on women as society leaders.
Once playing second fiddle to men, they are now in charge of their own lives and are a lucrative market for marketers.
“Women are in charge of their own lives, can choose to marry or not to marry, to have children or not to have children,” feminist author, Fay Weldon
As well as working towards financial independence, women are keen to live independently, with more staying single longer and preferring to live alone. Those women who are in relationships are more likely to be co-habiting than married.
It is here that we see an egalitarian approach to relationships emerging in Britain. The average age of marriage has increased by 5 years since 1961 to 28 for women and 30 for men, and women are also putting off having children until later in life, (ONS, 2007).
Some 30 per cent of women in their mid-thirties are yet to have their first baby and only 20 per cent of female graduates will become mothers by the time they are 30. Women are delaying marriage and children so they can establish their careers and build their own financial security.
Recent press has focused on how quickly women are progressing up the career ladder. The CMI 2007 report identified that 77 FTSE 100 companies have women directors on their boards, compared to 57 in 2001. In keeping with that narrowing gender pay gap, it’s been found that women who reach the boardroom do so on average at 44, 4 years before their male co-directors.
Neverthless in certain industries a stigma can still attach to women who choose to hop off the career ladder for 5/6 years in order to raise their children. However, in the future women may not have to choose between motherhood and a career, as economic necessity borne of demographic change may override such prejudices.
To address labour shortfalls and stagnant birth rates, Japanese and Australian governments are already offering incentives to companies who accommodate working mothers – this could be launched soon in Europe too.
If established in the UK, such incentives would help combat issues the government will imminently face as a result of our ageing population.
Having it all
“There are so many things on offer now that women don’t necessarily want to commit before making the most of what is out there,” Sheila Panchal, psychologist.
Women have seen how their mothers tried to juggle it all in the 70’s and 80’s and have learnt from that. The Future Foundation have identified that women are now compartmentalising their lives into ‘me time’ and ‘baby time’.
This ‘me time’ after university and before settling down is becoming know as the ‘decade of indulgence’-- twice as long as the freedom years that lasted only until their mothers’ mid-twenties.
Opportunity for marketers
With cash to spend and credit to use, women are prepared to spend to get the best possible experience in their time-squeezed lives. The ‘me time’ phase is marked by that higher disposable income being invested to spend in products and services that allow women to de-stress and indulge themselves.
This purchase could be anything from a short city break to some Aveda bath goodies! Even during ‘baby time’, the ‘yummy mummy’ trend born from celebrities, has led to women continuing to want to look after themselves and indulging in brands to make them look good and of course their new baby.
This constitutes an overlap between the phases. However, not just any brand can win a woman’s affection. Two brand-characteristics dominate the scene.
Brands that women are taking notice of and consuming are increasingly those which combine an ethical and/or environmental characteristic with indulgence. Innocent, Fairtrade, Ecover, Green & Blacks, Rachel’s Organic and De Beers are all acting responsibly and involving themselves in ethically minded campaigns and in return have gained women’s support.
Rising ethical standards mean that even issues of how materials and ingredients are sourced will determine a brands success. Value is another important criterion – women as the household purchase decision-makers are increasingly aware of what they can get for their money.
It’s not that they aren’t willing to pay a high price; they just want genuine value for money. A £1000 handbag must be of impeccable quality to justify the price tag.
Marketers now have to appreciate that women play a huge influence in all purchase decisions from car purchases to household gadgets to groceries.
Brands have to fit into their lifestyles, provide good value and conduct themselves with a civic spirit to make an impact in this burgeoning and radically changing market.
Comments/Feedback? Please contact: Michael.Tully@omduk.com
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