The Great Debate UK

What women want: the power of the female economy


clark- Professor Moira Clark is Director of the Henley Centre for Customer Management at Henley Business School. The opinions expressed are her own. Reuters will host a “follow-the-sun” live blog on Monday, March 8, 2010, International Women’s Day. Please tune in.–

“What does a woman want?” was a question that tormented Sigmund Freud despite thirty years of research into the “feminine soul”. He felt he was never able to answer this question, and sadly it would seem that many companies today still haven’t figured it out.

In a nutshell, women are a serious economic force to be reckoned with. Globally, women account for about $20 trillion spent annually on consumer goods; 85 percent of all consumer purchases are made by women, and women represent the majority of the online market. Seventy percent of all US and UK wealth is owned by the over 65s (who are mostly women) and it is estimated that female millionaires will outnumber male ones in the UK by 2020. By 2025, women will control 60 percent of the nation’s private wealth.

The statistics regarding the power of the female consumer go on and on, yet many companies are ignoring or downplaying this extraordinary trend. Could this be because of male dominance in the boardroom (only seven percent of board members are women) or the reluctance to acknowledge that gender really does make a difference when it comes to consumer behaviour?