Woman’s Role in Shaping the Economy & Business World
by Kimberly Blaker
Women today account for or influence a significant percentage of all buying decisions. As a 2013 Nielsen consumer report reveals, American women wield a whopping $5 trillion to $15 trillion in buying power annually. This statistic reveals the crucial role women play in keeping the economy afloat—in good times and in bad.
As a result, many businesses have taken heed. Still, plenty of industries and companies remain behind the times when it comes to treating women as major consumers. They fail to see the power this segment possesses.
For example, most women can attest to occasions when their gender has negatively affected the service and attention they received. Additionally, women are still taken advantage of because of their lack of or perceived lack of knowledge in certain industries.
Women, however, have become increasingly educated consumers, and businesses that don’t recognize this are learning the hard way. Many women, offended by these biases, walk away from a purchase and go elsewhere, demanding to be treated with respect.
Advertising and marketing specialists are also catching on. Advertising that stereotypes women and marketing geared specifically to male audiences doesn’t set well in the minds of women today. Stereotyping and the absence of recognizing women as potential consumers for traditionally male products is off target, offensive, and fails to give these large consumers the information they need.
House and Home
It’s probable women today account for much more than half the spending on household goods and personal items. That’s because they take more interest in shopping for these items, especially non-essentials. Women control most of the spending not only on décor, linens, and kitchen gadgets, but furniture, cabinetry, carpeting, lighting, and more.
Furthermore, women play a major role in the purchase of real estate, the biggest investment most families make. Also worth noting, according to a 2014 report by the National Association of Realtors, 16% percent of homeowners are now single women as opposed to only 9% of homeowners being single men.
Married women also markedly influence real estate decisions. According to David Powers Homes of Houston, Texas, couples ultimately agree on the purchase together. Yet research conducted by the company found women make almost 80 percent of the home-buying decisions in the company’s $180,000 to $500,000 price range.
When buying a home, men and women each look for certain features. Women are most concerned with floor plan and design and how these factors will accommodate their lifestyle. Specific features of importance to women include large closets, kitchen space and design, space needs, and overall comfort. Men focus mainly on technology, energy-efficiency, and garage functionality.
Probably one of the most under recognized areas of women’s buying power, however, is in the tool and home improvement industry. With the surge in do-it-yourself remodeling, women are fast becoming one of the big spenders in tool departments and home improvement aisles. Kimberly Stevens, staff reporter for The Wall Street Journal explains, “We’re talking buzz saws, routers and power sanders.”
The growth of female tool shoppers isn’t minimal, Stevens points out. A survey by the Home Improvement Research Institute, found women are outpacing men in their involvement in do-it-yourself projects. According to a female industrial designer at Porter-Cable of Jackson, Tennessee, as reported by Daily Gist, “Women are using these tools on a regular basis.”
Also increasing female tool sales has been the large increase in women working in the construction field, which has nearly doubled in the last 15 years.
Women’s voices are gaining prominence in the healthcare industry as well. Women make at least two-thirds of the healthcare decisions in U.S. households, according to Amy Ertel Bellcourt, vice president of corporate communications for MVP Health Plan. Recognizing this, healthcare systems are paying special attention by improving maternity wards and focusing a portion of their marketing on services affecting women.
Women are equally important to the travel market. They now make seventy percent of all travel decisions. They’re the larger clientele of adventure travel.
But business travel has also seen marked growth by females. Women make up nearly half of all business travel, according to research by Judi Brownell, Ph.D., professor of Cornell University’s Management & Organizational Behaviour Program.
Over 75% of women traveling on business are college educated and more able than men to articulate their needs. They participate in more leisure activities while traveling on business. They’re also much more likely to order room service while traveling alone. For these reasons, they have a great impact on this industry.
While the percentage of women who own stocks still lags behind men, ample research has found women make better investors. According to an investment management firm, SigFig, women outperformed men in their investments by 12 percent in 2014.
Another area in which women play a crucial role is the automotive industry. “Women,” according to a report by the National Institute of Automotive Service Excellence, “are not only becoming more influential in deciding what car to buy, they are also taking over the traditionally male-dominated responsibility of maintenance and repair.” Women make up between 65 and 80 percent of auto repair and service shop customers.
Women are also responsible for almost half of new car sales and slightly over half of used-car sales, according to Art Spinella, of CNW Research. Women influence 80% of all sales. Not to mention, says Ford Motor Marketing, 95% of women have the power to “veto” an automobile purchase.
What women want from this industry, experts say, is not to be treated differently. They just want to be treated with respect. “Women ask more questions, inquire about details, and are more willing to look under the hood, or check out parts,” says Diane Hohman, an automotive aftermarket consultant in Herndon, Virginia. So they’re beginning to get the respect they deserve in this market.
Sports and Entertainment
Women are not only spending increasing amounts on clothing, but on entertainment and electronics.
Furthermore, since 2010, spending on women’s sports apparel has risen 76%, points out the NFL. Seventeen percent of all sports apparel is now made for women, when only a decade before it was nearly zero. In fact, an unexpected 44% of NFL TV viewers are now women.
What this all boils down to is two-fold. Being America’s biggest consumers, women not only keep the economy from becoming stagnant during times of stability. They keep it from collapsing during recession. This means women are gaining the upper hand in the way the business industry treats them. Women aren’t demanding preferential treatment, but they do expect equal treatment and respect.