By Kimberly Blaker
Women account for or influence 70-80 percent of all buying decisions. The ‘female economy’ was estimated by Forbes in 2017 to be worth $18 trillion, and it continues to grow. These statistics reveal the crucial role women play in keeping the economy afloat—in good times and in bad.
While many businesses have taken heed, plenty of industries and companies remain behind the times when it comes to treating women as major consumers. They fail to see the power this segment possesses.
For example, most women can attest to occasions when their gender has negatively affected the service and attention they received. Additionally, women are still taken advantage of because of their lack of or perceived lack of knowledge in certain industries.
Women, however, have become increasingly educated consumers, and businesses that don’t recognize this are learning the hard way. Many women, offended by these biases, walk away from a purchase and go elsewhere, demanding to be treated with respect.
Advertising and marketing specialists are also catching on. Advertising that stereotypes women and marketing explicitly geared to male audiences don’t sit well in the minds of women today. Stereotyping and the absence of recognizing women as potential consumers for traditionally male products are off-target, offensive, and fail to give these large consumers the information they need.
House and home
Women account for well over half of the spending on household goods and personal items. That’s because they take more interest in shopping for these items, especially non-essentials. Women control most of the expenditures not only on décor, linens, and kitchen gadgets, but also on furniture, cabinetry, carpeting, lighting, and more.
Furthermore, women play a significant role in the purchase of real estate, the biggest investment most families make. According to the National Association of Realtors’ 2020 Profile of Home Buyers and Sellers, “19% of first-time home buyers and 17% of repeat home buyers were single women,” totaling 36 percent. Single men accounted for only 20 percent of homebuyers in 2020.
Married women also markedly influence real estate decisions. According to David Powers Homes of Houston, Texas, couples ultimately agree on the purchase together. Yet research conducted by the company found women make almost 80 percent of the home-buying decisions in the company’s $180,000 to $500,000 price range.
When buying a home, men and women each look for certain features. Women are most concerned with floor plans and designs and how these factors will accommodate their lifestyles. Specific features of importance to women include large closets, kitchen space and design, space needs, and overall comfort. Men focus mainly on technology, energy efficiency, and garage functionality.
Probably one of the most under-recognized areas of women’s buying power, however, is in the tool and home improvement industry. With the surge in do-it-yourself remodeling, women have fast become one of the big spenders in tool departments and home improvement aisles. Kimberly Stevens, a staff reporter for The Wall Street Journal, explains, “We’re talking buzz saws, routers and power sanders.”
The growth of female tool shoppers isn’t minimal, Stevens points out. A survey by the Home Improvement Research Institute found that women have been outpacing men in their involvement in do-it-yourself projects since at least 2000. According to a female industrial designer at Porter-Cable of Jackson, Tenn., as reported by Daily Gist, “Women are using these tools on a regular basis.”
The growth of female tool sales is due, in part, to the significant increase in women working in the construction field, which has nearly doubled over the last 15 years.
Women’s voices are gaining prominence in the health care industry, as well. Women make at least two-thirds of the health care decisions in U.S. households, according to Amy Ertel Bellcourt, vice president of corporate communications for MVP Health Plan. So, health care systems are paying particular attention by improving maternity wards and focusing a portion of their marketing on services affecting women.
Women are equally important to the travel market. They now make 70 percent of all travel decisions. They’re the larger clientele of adventure travel.
But business travel has also seen marked growth by females. Women make up nearly half of all business travel, according to research by Judi Brownell, professor of Cornell University’s Management & Organizational Behaviour Program.
More than 75 percent of women traveling for business are college-educated and better able than men to articulate their needs. They participate in more leisure activities while traveling on business. They’re also much more likely to order room service while traveling alone. For these reasons, they have a significant impact on this industry.
While the percentage of women who own stocks still lags behind men, ample research has found that women make better investors. In 2017, Fidelity Investments reported after analyzing more than 8 million clients that when it comes to the return on investments, women outperform men.
Another area where women play a crucial role is in the automotive industry. According to a report by the National Institute of Automotive Service Excellence, “Women are not only becoming more influential in deciding what car to buy, they are also taking over the traditionally male-dominated responsibility of maintenance and repair.” Women make up between 65 percent and 80 percent of auto repair and service shop customers.
Women are also responsible for almost half of new car sales and slightly over half of the used-car sales, according to Art Spinella of CNW Research. Women influence 80 percent of all transactions. Also, Ford Motor Marketing says that 95 percent of women have the power to “veto” an automobile purchase.
What women want from this industry, experts say, is not to be treated differently. They want to be treated with respect. “Women ask more questions, inquire about details, and are more willing to look under the hood, or check out parts,” says Diane Hohman, an automotive aftermarket consultant in Herndon, Va. So, they’re beginning to get the respect they deserve in this market.
Sports and entertainment
Furthermore, the women’s sports apparel market is valued at $26.8 billion, nearly a third of the total sports apparel market of $80.1 billion as of 2018, according to the Euromonitor International. In fact, an unexpected 45 percent of National Football League fans are now women, according to the NFL’s 2017 estimate.
What this all boils down to is two-fold. Being America’s biggest consumers, women not only keep the economy from becoming stagnant during times of stability, but they also keep it from collapsing during a recession. This means women are gaining the upper hand in the way the business industry treats them. Women aren’t demanding preferential treatment, but they do expect equal treatment and respect.