SOURCE: The Boston Consulting Group

The Boston Consulting Group

August 03, 2009 11:24 ET

Largest Global Survey of Women Finds That No Matter Where They Live, Women Are Over-Worked, Over-Extended, Over-Stressed and Under-Served by Businesses

Emerging $5 Trillion Opportunity Exists for Companies That Systematically Understand and Respond to Women's Needs for Time, Value, Emotional Connections

CHICAGO, IL--(Marketwire - August 3, 2009) - Most women around the world are over-extended, over-worked, over-stressed and under-served by consumer providers. They want time leverage, more value and suppliers that specifically understand them.

Those are key findings of a major, just-released global survey conducted by The Boston Consulting Group (BCG) in conjunction with the upcoming book, "WOMEN WANT MORE: How to Capture Your Share of the World's Largest, Fastest-Growing Market" (HarperBusiness, September 2009). The survey demonstrates, and underscores the implications of, the fact that women are driving $12 trillion in global spending today and will contribute an incremental $5 trillion in earnings over the next five years.

The survey asked more than 12,000 women in 21 countries a battery of 120 questions. The results point out that demands on time are the number-one challenge women face: There are now one billion working women, which helps with survival in the global recession. In five years, the number will grow to 1.2 billion women. Women say they need time for themselves, and they are willing to pay for help and agents of leverage, according to the findings.

"The balance of power shifts as women earn more money and their incremental earnings become critical for affluence. Working for women is not a choice. They must work for their families to have success," said Michael J. Silverstein, BCG senior partner and coauthor of "WOMEN WANT MORE." "But with work comes complications -- a full-time job at work and a full-time job at home."

Women spend over 70 percent of consumer dollars worldwide, increasingly define the entrepreneurial economy and will create 70 percent of the global growth in income at the household level over the next five years, according to BCG. They account for half of university students worldwide, and 57 percent of U.S. undergraduates.

"Companies can earn a privileged position by recognizing this phenomenon and the outsized burden women shoulder -- and by responding with power and certainty," said Kate Sayre, BCG partner and coauthor of "WOMEN WANT MORE."

Mr. Silverstein added, "Companies are failing to meet the needs of women in five key ways: Poor product design and customization for women; clumsy sales and marketing; inability to address the need for time-saving solutions; inability to provide a meaningful hook and differentiation, and failure to develop community."

Women Carry an Outsized Burden

According to the BCG survey, women assume responsibility for most key facets of home life: The demands and responsibilities are formidable...

  • As of 2006, 70.9 percent of mothers in the U.S. were in the labor force, and most (56 percent) had children under one year old.
    • At the same time, women do most of the work at home, according to the BCG worldwide survey.
    • 88 percent say they have responsibility for grocery shopping.
    • 85 percent have responsibility for meal preparation.
    • 84 percent have responsibility for laundry.
    • 84 percent have responsibility for cleaning.
    • And 77 percent have responsibility for household administration.

In Fact, Women Are Increasingly at the Economic Center

Women control, and increasingly make, the money...

  • Between 2002 and 2007, women's income (globally) increased by nearly $3 trillion to $9.8 trillion. By 2014, women's income will jump by $5 trillion to $15.6 trillion.
  • In the U.S. and E.U., most college students (57 percent and 55 percent, respectively) are women. Worldwide, almost half (49 percent) of college students are women.
  • Women own or co-own 40 percent of U.S. businesses. Solely women-owned businesses are growing at twice the rate of all U.S. firms (and faster than male-owned businesses).
  • Most important, globally, women control nearly $12 trillion of the overall $18.4 trillion in consumer spending. By 2014, women will control $15 trillion.
  • In the top 20 markets, women control $10 trillion of $15.3 trillion in consumer spending.
  • By 2028, women will control nearly three-quarters (72 percent) of consumer spending worldwide.

The Upshot: Women Around the World Are Stressed

The survey revealed significant stress among women as a result of time and money issues...

  • 48 percent of women say they feel pressure related to managing household finances -- and that it's the major point of stress in their lives.
    • 81 percent don't think they're saving enough for retirement.
    • 73 percent are concerned that they don't consistently save.
    • 41 percent save less than they'd like.
  • Nearly half of all women (47 percent) said the big stress in their life is the demand on their time.
  • 45 percent said they don't have "enough time for me."
  • 38 percent say "conflicting priorities" cause stress.

Compounding the Pressure: Great Expectations of Themselves

Said Mr. Silverstein, "High standards and expectations of themselves, plus responsibilities for nutrition, education, home hygiene, clothing and healthcare are the primary sources of stress. Life is a pressure cooker for women. It's a case of high expectations, high demands and few agents of relief."

  • Only 25 percent of women say they believe they are extremely or very attractive, according to the BCG survey.
    • 25 percent say they rarely or never feel beautiful.
    • 44 percent say they rarely or never feel powerful.
  • 68 percent say they believe they're above their ideal body weight.

The Things that Make Women Happier Are Lofty

Said Ms. Sayre, "Our survey shows that women place a premium on life values and have lofty goals."

  • The values most important to women are: love (77 percent); health (58 percent); honesty (51 percent) and emotional well-being (48 percent).
  • The things that make women extremely happy are: pets (42 percent); sex (27 percent) and food (19 percent). Only 5 percent cited shopping, and only 2 percent cited the economy.

Given the Responsibilities, Pressures and Frustrations, It's Critical for Consumer-Facing Companies to Understand What Women Really Want More of...

According to the BCG research, women want more...

  • Love and connection -- lasting, romantic relationships; happy, healthy families; connections with friends, colleagues and neighbors.
  • Fulfillment -- freedom to pursue happiness and satisfaction.
  • Time and work-life balance -- the ability to "make it all happen" and make the right trade-offs and tough decisions.
  • Money as a marker, not for its own sake, but for better control of inflow and outflow, and guidance on spending and saving wisely.

The Call to Action for Companies

Said Mr. Silverstein, "Since consumer companies can't deliver love, fulfillment and time per se, they must provide products and agents of leverage and savings that mitigate challenges and respond to women's desires and stresses on emotional, technical and functional levels."

Women Are Very Disappointed with a Range of Consumer Categories

While certain companies in such industries as beauty, clothing and food are successfully tapping into women and their needs, others continue to fail miserably...

  • According to the BCG survey, women are especially disappointed in the investment industry: 49 percent of women said investment companies need to do a much better job of understanding and meeting their needs.
  • 48 percent of women are disappointed with the auto industry and cars.
  • 47 percent are disappointed with banks; 45 percent with life insurance; 42 percent with physicians and 39 percent with car insurance.

Governments Take Note: A Lesson from Sweden

The survey compares happiness and satisfaction across countries. Sweden stands out as ideal -- with access to education, quality of healthcare, availability of daycare and paid parental leave as major contributors.

"If the United States offered the same level of access to education, health care and family support as Sweden, women would earn more over their lives and have more years of employment," Ms. Sayre said.

To receive an advance copy of "WOMEN WANT MORE: How to Capture Your Share of the World's Largest, Fastest-Growing Market" (HarperBusiness, September 8, 2009) and supporting materials, or to schedule a conversation with Michael Silverstein or Kate Sayre, please contact Adria Greenberg at Sommerfield Communications, Inc. (212) 255-8386 or adria@sommerfield.com.

Survey Methodology

The authors created a detailed battery of multiple choice and open-ended questions. This questionnaire was completed by over 12,000 women in 21 countries. The questionnaire asked women to describe their work and home life, their earnings and household earnings, to describe division of chores at home, to list spend and dissatisfaction by category of purchase, and to answer a series of questions on time, happiness, and sources of frustration. Survey results were compiled by country, by age and income, by cluster of countries, and by religion/national origin. Individual participants spent one to two hours filling out the survey. Over 10,000 pages of verbatim responses on the open-ended questions were compiled. A shorter version of the questionnaire is available online at www.womenspeakworldwide.com and will be used by book readers.

About the Authors

Michael J. Silverstein is a Chicago-based senior partner and member of the Executive Committee at The Boston Consulting Group (BCG). He ran BCG's global consumer practice for eight years and actively serves clients in retail and consumer packaged goods. He is an expert in understanding and responding to consumer needs and dissatisfactions and helping large consumer companies grow. He is coauthor of the 2003 bestseller titled "Trading Up: The New American Luxury," as well as "Treasure Hunt: Inside the Mind of the New Consumer."

Kate Sayre is a partner at The Boston Consulting Group (BCG) and leads the consumer goods and retail practice in the New York office. She heads the firm's global efforts on marketing effectiveness.

About The Boston Consulting Group

The Boston Consulting Group (BCG) is a global management consulting firm and the world's leading advisor on business strategy. BCG works with clients in all sectors and regions to identify their highest-value opportunities, address their most critical challenges, and help grow profit and value. BCG's customized approach combines deep insight into the dynamics of companies and markets with close collaboration at all levels of the client organization. This ensures that clients achieve sustainable competitive advantage, build more capable organizations, and secure lasting results. Founded in 1963, BCG is a private company with 66 offices in 38 countries. For more information, please visit www.bcg.com.

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