Women represent an enormous consumer market, and most companies have not known how to capture it. According to a study by the Boston Consulting Group, in 2009 female consumer spending represented close to 20 trillion dollars and around 70% of global consumer spending. The World Bank predicted that by 2014 this segment’s spending would increase by 5 trillion. This figure surpasses the Chinese and Indian markets combined. How can a market of this magnitude, found in almost every home and company, have escaped unnoticed?
Nowadays, women are one of the major sources of economic growth, a market whose purchasing power is constantly on the rise, particularly in developing countries. In 2014, the managing director of FMI, Christina Lagarde, exposed the same ideas in her speech in Japan, in which she pointed out, “women are the ultimate agents of aggregate demand, accounting for 70 percent of global consumer spending. So, if we want growth, let us put women in the driver’s seat”.
However, many companies have not taken the necessary measures to understand women as consumers. There are examples that illustrate companies’ limited perception of women and, in consequence, their inability to attract more female consumers. Two clear examples are Dell computers and Bic pens. When Dell set about creating laptops for women, one idea was to include “feminine” colors, in addition to calorie-counting tips and recipes. The product was declared discriminatory and failed. Bic made the same mistake upon launching the “For Her” pen, solely differentiated by its color: pink or lavender. Evidently, superficial marketing ploys based on obsolete gender stereotypes will no longer gain a company access to the largest global consumer market.
Such marketing blunders on an international scale reveal that this market is not being captured in its entirety. It is a fact that women do not spend their money the same way men do: their consumer patterns are different and other strategies are required to catch their interest. If companies want to convince them, they must invest in understanding their tastes. The companies that do, will not only garner great competitive advantages; they will also create better products, for women and men.
An example of this last observation is Volvo, when it decided that its employees would design an automobile. The results showed that women designed a product that not only complied with everything men looked for in terms of style and performance, but also included many features that men had not considered. The company president Hans-Olov Olsson concluded, “If you meet the expectations of women, you exceed the expectations of men.” In other words, a better product that fulfills all consumers’ needs and expectations can be achieved when the feminine vision is taken into account.
Companies must reconsider their approach to women. Neglecting to do so can imply serious losses and missed opportunities. Therefore, what can be done in the private sector to capture this potential market? The first step is recognizing the importance of women as consumers. This implies designing and implementing women-focused strategies that take their differences and preferences seriously into account, side-stepping obsolete gender conceptions. It implies, as well, appealing to all women, avoiding age and preconceived role limitations in society.
To achieve this, the second step requires women’s inclusion in companies. More and more studies have shown that corporate female inclusion increases profits. This is not surprising since this inclusion implies a greater understanding of the market they represent, among other benefits. Including women in decision-making translates into broadening perspectives, making better decisions, increasing sales, and creating knowledge. In a world where women determine in great measure what is consumed, companies that choose to exclude them from their vision will continue viewing the world through “rose-colored glasses” while risking their numbers turning red.
Angélica Fuentes, Founder Equal Invest
Angélica Fuentes is a Latin American businesswoman and impact investor, who has been recognized by Forbes Magazine as one of Mexico’s most influential women.
Ms. Fuentes was appointed CEO of Grupo Imperial in 1992 and quickly positioned the company as a top player in Northern Mexico’s energy sector. Under her leadership, Grupo Imperial’s annual growth rate increased from 5% in 1992 to 9.5% in 2005. Ms. Fuentes served as President of the Business Energy Network of the Asia-Pacific Economic Cooperation Agreement (APEC) from 2002 to 2004, and as President of the Mexican Natural Gas Association from 1996 to 2000. From 2007 to 2015, she served as CEO of Grupo Omnilife-Angelissima-Chivas. Under her leadership, the company became one of the top 100 corporations in Mexico.
Throughout her career, Ms. Fuentes has dedicated significant time and resources to NGOs, international organizations and professional groups that support the cause of women. She participated in the World Economic Forum’s Gender Parity Programme, and led the Mexican Gender Parity Taskforce. She currently serves on Secretary Clinton’s International Council on Women’s Business Leadership; is member of the Private Sector Leadership Advisory Council of UN Women; is a Global Advocate for the Girl Up Campaign, a United Nations Foundation program; co-chairs the PVBLIC LATAM regional platform; is member of the Latin American Program Advisory Board of the Woodrow Wilson International Center; and is member of the Global Dignity’s International Council of Advisors.
Her work in this field has been recognized by numerous honors and awards. In 2015, UN Women gave her the Women’s Empowerment Principles CEO Leadership Award; she was the first female CEO to receive this award for championing gender equality in the private sector. In 2016, PVBLIC Foundation, Ismael Cala Foundation, and the United Nations gave her the award for Latin Woman Empowerment. In 2017, she received the Corporate Social Responsibility Award from The Maestro Cares Foundation.
Gender equality, women empowerment and the eradication of poverty have always been a priority in all her endeavors. In 2014, she established the Angelica Fuentes Foundation. In 2016, she founded A Complete and The Imperative Fund. In 2017, she founded Equal Invest, The Beauty Station and A Complete Journey.