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CEO confronts gender in global consumer economy

| Friday, April 15, 2016

The Mendoza College of Business and the University’s gender studies program hosted Bridget Brennan, CEO of Female Factor and author of “Why She Buys,” on Thursday to discuss women’s role in business.

Brennan’s lecture, “Top Trends in Marketing and Selling to Women,” began by explaining the growth trends in the marketplace. She addressed the fact that nations like Brazil, China and India tend to be labeled as the greatest growth markets, but she emphasized that the commonly unmentioned female market is especially large.

“Women are now considered to be one of the world’s largest emerging growth markets because of women’s increased economic participation, educational levels and political participation,” Brennan said.

This increased female presence in the market has resulted in the creation of programs targeting women by major companies, she said. Brennan said companies like Under Armour, Levi’s and Harley-Davidson are developing these types of programs with the hope of increasing their brand by including women.

“Women are the engine of the consumer economy, driving between 70 and 80 percent of all consumer purchases,” she said.

The domination of women in the marketplace can attributed to two factors: buying power and influence, Brennan said. An increased percentage of women with a higher education has increased their earning power and contributes to their buying power, she said.

“Influence means that even when a woman isn’t paying for something with her own money … she is typically the influencer or veto vote behind somebody else’s purchase,” Brennan said.

Additionally, Brennan aimed to counter the stereotypes surrounding women and shopping. As opposed to the misconceptions that women only care about shopping for shoes or handbags, she explained that women’s spending habits serve a greater purpose.

“The reason women are so responsible for consumer spending is because, in virtually every society in the world, women have primary caregiving responsibilities for both children and the elderly — and just about everyone in between,” Brennan said.

Such a culture has led to a “multiplier effect,” Brennan said. Because women tend to be responsible for purchasing things for the important people in their lives, they influence the market for even items like men’s athletic apparel, she said.

As a result, Brennan’s work at Female Factor has focused on identifying and monitoring women’s trends in the market. The first major trend Brennan said she saw was the large percentage of women in today’s labor force.

Because 70 percent of women with children under the age of 18 are a part of the labor force, today’s business must accommodate for time limitations on women’s shopping, Brennan said. Operational hour changes and convenience-focused business models are ways in which companies can address time needs.

“With less time, there’s a demand for services, not just products,” Brennan said.

Similarly, Brennan has also observed trends relating to the delayed marriages of today’s women. Because women tend to wait until the age of 27 to get married and because they are more active in the labor force, they are more likely to have the desire and means to purchase things before marriage.

Brennan said the delayed marriages also have an effect on family formation that influences the market. For example, women married later in life tend to have kids at a later time, and because they are older, they are more entrenched in their personal brand and impose this brand on their kids.

“Many brands are finding that they have an opportunity to either age up or age down the spectrum because there is a broader embracing of brands across the age spectrum,” Brennan said.

A variety of additional trends led by the female market, such as social media and fitness trends, have highlighted the increased role of female empowerment in advertising, Brennan said.

“It is positive to see that strength and femininity is being positioned as something powerful in the marketplace,” she said.

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