SOURCE: The Boston Consulting Group

The Boston Consulting Group

September 08, 2009 00:01 ET

New Book, "WOMEN WANT MORE," Reveals How Companies Can Capture Their Share of the World's Largest, Fastest-Growing Market

Authors Michael J. Silverstein and Kate Sayre of The Boston Consulting Group Forecast a $5 Trillion Boost in Earnings From Working Women; They Predict the Female Economy Will Drive the Next Round of Prosperity, Presenting a Once-in-a-Generation Opportunity for Companies That Can Respond With Products That Are Tailored to Women's Needs and Save Women Time

CHICAGO, IL--(Marketwire - September 8, 2009) - Over the next few years, women -- educated, ambitious, working women -- will have $5 trillion in incremental earnings to spend. To providers of a wide variety of goods and services, that represents a commercial opportunity bigger than the rise of the consumer economies of China and India combined -- an opportunity that is far larger than any government bailout package, according to "WOMEN WANT MORE: How to Capture Your Share of the World's Largest, Fastest-Growing Market" (HarperBusiness, September 2009).

What authors Michael J. Silverstein and Kate Sayre, partners at The Boston Consulting Group (BCG), call the female economy will be replete with opportunities for companies to capture new consumers, increase market share, and open new markets.

"WOMEN WANT MORE" is based on The Boston Consulting Group Global Inquiry into Women and Consumerism, a survey of more than 12,000 women in 22 countries around the world, comprehensive one-on-one interviews, as well as the authors' decades of experience with companies and consumers worldwide. The survey results show that women are dissatisfied with the products and services available to them in many categories, largely because companies misunderstand women's issues and fail to answer their needs. Most of all, women are overwhelmed by demands on their time and the challenges of dealing with the many roles they typically play -- as wives, mothers, partners, professionals, friends, colleagues, sisters, and daughters. They are most dissatisfied with three of today's most important consumer-goods categories: financial services, health care, and consumer durables.

"Very few companies are realizing the full potential of this incredible opportunity," said Mr. Silverstein. "We wrote this book as a guide to help companies participate more successfully. Not only does it contain insights into the attitudes and behaviors of female consumers, but it also describes tangible steps that companies can take -- in terms of research, innovation, sales, merchandising, and even management -- to better serve women."

According to Mr. Silverstein and Ms. Sayre, women now control $12 trillion of the overall $18.4 trillion in global consumer spending, and they will have their hands on an even bigger share in the coming years. They increasingly earn a substantial portion of the household income and, in many cases, make more than their male partners -- yet they still do the bulk of the housework. As a result, it is not surprising that women in every corner of the world are starved for time and stressed out.

"Our research shows that women are struggling to balance the 'job at the job' with the 'job at home.' They are working full-time at their place of employment and working full-time at home too," said Mr. Silverstein. "They do the majority of chores and most of the tasks involved in child care. But they don't have the option not to work, because the family depends on their income. They want companies to help them save time, providing 24-7 access, easy information, appointment selling, and a responsive sales force."

Consider the following findings of the BCG survey:

  • As of 2006, about 71 percent of mothers in the United States were in the labor force
  • Most -- 56 percent -- had children under one year old
  • Yet, 88 percent of women are still responsible for grocery shopping
  • 85 percent do most of the meal preparation
  • 84 percent do the laundry
  • 84 percent do the bulk of the cleaning
  • 77 percent manage the tasks of household administration
  • Nearly half of all women (47 percent) say that the big stress in their life is demands on their time
  • 48 percent say that they feel pressure related to managing household finances and that it's the major point of stress in their lives
  • 45 percent of women say they don't have "enough time for me"
  • 38 percent say conflicting priorities cause stress

In addition, women place a lot of pressure on themselves. "Women have high standards and even higher expectations of themselves," said Mr. Silverstein. "These expectations -- combined with the responsibilities women shoulder for looking after nutrition, education, healthcare, and making money for the family -- create tremendous stress. Life is a pressure cooker for women."

The Things That Make Women Happy Are Lofty: A Challenge for Companies

The authors of "WOMEN WANT MORE" found that women place a premium on values and have lofty goals. Most important to them are love (77 percent), health (58 percent), honesty (51 percent), and emotional well-being (48 percent).

"Take care of these core values -- love, health, honesty, and emotional well-being -- and companies can really connect with women," said Ms. Sayre. "Women don't value riches and money per se, but they do value it as a means to happiness -- the freedom to pursue satisfaction, work-life balance, savings, and the ability to 'make it all happen.'"

"But we've found that companies fail to meet the needs of women in five key ways," said Ms. Sayre. "They are not good at addressing women's need for time-saving solutions. They have poor product design and customization for women. Their sales and marketing efforts are clumsy and often insulting to women. They fail to align with women's values or develop community, and they don't 'give back' to society as well or as much as they could."

Why Consumer Companies Should Focus Most on Women

Mr. Silverstein and Ms. Sayre argue that the future of the economy is in women's hands. Consider the following:

  • Women own or co-own 40 percent of U.S. businesses
  • Women-owned businesses are growing at twice the rate of all U.S. companies (and faster than male-owned businesses)
  • Over the next five years, female incomes will grow, driven by movement toward parity wage and an increase of 200 million women in the working population
  • Women hold half of the university slots in the world, and they represent 57 percent of the U.S. undergraduate population

"Women will be the greatest single force for economic recovery," said Mr. Silverstein. "The $5 trillion in earned-income growth over the next five years -- the result of their ambition, education, and resourcefulness -- is bigger than any other commercial opportunity out there, including the emerging consumer economies in China and India combined."

Financial Services: The Real Disappointment for Women

The category that most frustrates women is financial services. Women do not have a desire to accumulate money for its own sake or to experiment with complicated financial instruments. They value money only as a means for caring for their families and themselves, improving their lives, and assuring long-term security. They do not need or want products and services that offer access to a huge array of financial tools and techniques. Women say that they want advisors and services that recognize their need for short-term simplicity and long-term stability. They want solutions that help them with their most challenging task: Managing household finances from day to day and month to month.

For the most part, however, women aren't getting these solutions. "Women were scathing in their comments about dealings with financial services and institutions," said Mr. Silverstein. "They experience a lack of respect, poor advice, contradictory policies, and an obstacle course of red tape and forms. The greatest opportunity lies in financial advice and services from institutions that can offer good information and educational materials and more engagement with advisors."

Note to Employers and Consumer Companies: Women Want to 'Give Back'

Women are optimistic about their growing influence and how they will help drive peace and economic prosperity, according to the survey. As a result, they increasingly seek out employers, companies, products, activities, and organizations that enable them to help others in a meaningful way. In fact, many female business leaders urge other women to "bring your organization to nonprofit leadership. Think of philanthropic activity not as a perk but as a passion."

"Women will increasingly assess companies and brands in terms of values and of commitment to a community they care about," said Ms. Sayre.

"Leaders of major companies have an opportunity to seize competitive advantage by focusing on the female economy," added Mr. Silverstein. "If they systematically target this emerging market, work to understand women's dissatisfactions, and change their offerings -- holistically, rather than incrementally -- companies can significantly participate in, profit from, and help boost this most important commercial opportunity of our lifetime."

To receive an early 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 Katarina Wenk-Bodenmiller at Sommerfield Communications, Inc. (212) 255-8386 or katarina@sommerfield.com. You can also visit the book's Web site at www.womenwantmorethebook.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 22 countries. The questionnaire asked women to describe their work and home life, their earnings and household earnings, and the 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 and national origin. Individual participants spent one to two hours filling out the survey. More than 10,000 pages of verbatim responses to 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 in 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 BCG and leads the consumer goods and retail practice in the firm's New York office. She heads BCG'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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