Women Drive the World Economy But Still Take a Back Seat

They'll soon surpass men in employment numbers, so why haven't businesses noticed?

By + More

By Mary Kate Cary, Thomas Jefferson Street blog

Today's must-read from the current issue of the Harvard Business Review, on the fact that women now drive the world economy:

Globally, [women] control about $20 trillion in annual consumer spending, and that figure could climb as high as $28 trillion in the next five years. Their $13 trillion in total yearly earnings could reach $18 trillion in the same period. In aggregate, women represent a growth market bigger than China and India combined—more than twice as big, in fact.

Who knew?

The article goes on to quote from a recent study by the Boston Consulting Group showing that despite the remarkable strides women have made in market power, many still feel "underserved" by businesses in terms of both products and marketing. (Examples include Dell's idea to market pink laptops loaded with recipes to women, which went over like a ton of bricks.) It's true. Very few companies have given women what they need: time-saving solutions tailored specifically for them.

If men had to drive around with a car full of kids—in car seats we can't reach easily—and their purses stuffed between the driver's seat and their left leg, life would be different. Instead they give us more cup holders. And don't get me started on mammogram machines for women versus the blood test for prostate cancer for men.

The authors continue:

It's still tough for women to find a pair of pants, buy a healthful meal, get financial advice without feeling patronized, or make the time to stay in shape. Although women control spending in most categories of consumer goods, too many businesses behave as if they had no say over purchasing decisions. Companies continue to offer them poorly conceived products and services and outdated marketing narratives that promote female stereotypes.

Here's the best part: "As we write, the number of working women in the United States is about to surpass the number of working men ... we believe that as this recession abates, women not only will represent one of the largest market opportunities in our lifetimes but also will be an important force in spurring a recovery and generating new prosperity."

Amen to that, sister.