Women account for half of the global labor supply and about 70% of global consumption demand, but their potential as leaders, influencers and consumers remains largely untapped.
Many leaders believe that in today’s global economy, gender equality is a key driver of competitiveness, innovation, risk management and sustainable development. In fact, a recent McKinsey & Co. study found that companies with leadership roles equally divided between men and women reported above-median profits.
This indicates that by involving women in the design, implementation and financing of products and services, brands and policy makers can speed innovation, gain market share and strengthen their leadership quotient.
Let’s look at the impact women are having in 5 change-driven industries and the opportunities brands have to tap into their market potential.
According to the U.N. Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO) and the World Bank, women make up 43% of laborers in the agricultural sector and 47% in fisheries. Some believe that if women had equal access to resources, agricultural yields could increase by 20% to 30%. And that making more resources available to women could mean a global decrease in hunger by 100 to 150 million people. Rising global populations combined with climate change are powerful pressures on this sector. Forecasters predict a major labor shortage by 2030. That means we need to feed more people with a smaller labor force in an increasingly complex environment. Organic farming, vertical farming and precision farming are leading innovation in agriculture.
By providing an already large base of women farmers with better access to credit, designing equipment and tools with women in mind, and offering information and education, policy makers can strengthen their agricultural markets and brands have the potential to significantly and quickly expand their market share.
There is good business to be grown here.
In the energy industry, globalization and climate change are raising the national and international discourse about sustainable development. Current research indicates that international efforts to address global warming are woven together with the role of women. In fact, the UN in their 2017 World Survey of the Role of Women in Development has inextricably linked the role of women as a crucial mandate to achieving sustainable development.
But the energy industry is suffering from a lack of talent and a lack of diversity. Women represent less than 28% of all positions in this sector even though research proves companies with higher levels of gender diversity deliver a greater return on investments.
In the United States jobs are growing in renewables. The U.S. solar industry employed 260,077 workers last year, a nearly 25% increase in the number of jobs from 2017. The American Jobs Project is using their resources to develop state-specific growth strategies. This creates multiple opportunities to engage women, drive development and solve the energy demands of a swiftly shifting planet and brands will need to be prepared.
Health care on the other hand has lots of women. More than 76% of hospital employees and people who work in doctors' offices and more than 88% of home health workers are women. And according to Pew, women owned more than half of all firms in the health care/social assistance and educational services industries in 2012.
Additionally, women are more likely to choose the family’s health care providers, make the diet and activity choices as well as, decisions for their aging or ailing family members. Women also have unique and specific health concerns. But the industry’s key decision-makers – leaders in the commercial industry as well as policy makers are still typically men. This is both a gap and an opportunity.
As the tidal wave of aging boomers continues to rise and the redesign of care delivery in this country evolves, it should become clear that health care brands need to be marketing to women – as care providers, care givers, influencers and patients.
It is likely that anyone in the industry could see gains by designing research around women’s health, better understanding the nuances of marketing to women and lifting women into the C-suite and policy process.
It would seem as if the tipping point has arrived in this sector. Women now control nearly 60% of the wealth in the United States. Women are responsible for 85% of consumer purchases. And yet the financial industry still balks at leading with and marketing to women. Only 23% of certified financial planner professionals are women and research from the Certified Financial Planner Board of Standards indicates that unconscious bias and a significant gender pay gap remains.
Just as in health care, women consumers have unique pressures, tensions and goals. Women live longer, get paid less and take time out of the workforce to care for family. All of these factors impact their earnings, savings and investment strategies – yet only a few brands have developed products, services and employment structures that put women (and families) at the center.
Once again we see a gap and an opportunity. It is likely that, as the millennial generation hits its stride and inherits an anticipated 41 trillion dollars, they will bring the high levels of disruption now felt in the health and media industries. In response, financial services organizations will need to transform their business models, evolve their communication strategies and understand how to better include women in their leadership, segmentation strategies and product design.
Last, but certainly not least, the media industry creates a cultural idea of what’s ‘normal’. And yet, 60% to 70% of news is still authored by male voices - which simply means their voice is disproportionate. Women are on-camera 32% of the time; in print news, women report 37% of the stories; on the Internet, women write 42% of the news; and on the wires, women garner only 38% of the bylines.
Yet, women are 54% of the heaviest consumers of media. Across radio, television, Internet and print newspaper, they are simply under-represented.
This is an obvious opportunity for those in marketing communications to bring the missing conversations forward. Imagine a segment that is rising in wealth, eager to fill labor shortages and capable of adding value to their communities, as well as the bottom line – and all they need is someone to start the right discussions.
Five steps to future growth
These actions outline a clear path for organizations to benefit from the untapped potential that 50% of the population can contribute:
- Invite more women into leadership ranks
- Explore the range of unique pressures faced by women
- Design products and services using the lens of women
- Optimize the brand experience for women
- Bring forward the voice of women
Industries facing change and disruption must rely on insight and innovation to survive. Gathering the untapped perspectives, talents and influence of women appears to be a sound strategy with a huge upside.