The leadership role of women continues to strengthen in the family, at work and in the broader society. The enduring global economic hardship has solidified, not weakened, the role of women in the workplace.
“Gender is a business issue, not a woman’s issue!” states Benja Stig Fagerland the inventor of “Womenomics.” Women constitute half of the world’s human capital and have a huge potential as an engine for economic growth.
As women are becoming more educated, career focused, wealthier and notably, they have an increasingly influential role in guiding family purchase decisions.
Women represent an economic powerhouse, making over 85 per cent of the consumer purchases and control $12 trillion of the overall $18.4 trillion global spend.
Women also purchase 50 per cent or more in traditional “male” categories like automobiles, consumer electronics, and PCs. Simply put, today’s woman sets the agenda – for herself, her family, and by extension, the State and the economy as a whole.
Women’s consumer priorities are different to men’s; they are more prone to buy goods and services that enhance the family’s welfare. Therefore, as women acquire increasingly more decision-making power domestic expenditure patterns are likely to change.
Areas likely to benefit from women’s increasing buying power include food, healthcare, education, childcare, apparel, consumer durables and financial services. This effect is even more prominent in developing nations.
The influence of women is growing within the workplace as well. In Australia, women comprise 56 per cent of all new university graduates and constitute 46 per cent of the workforce. By 2016, the number of women in the labour force will increase to 4.9 million – which is twice the growth rate of men.
Furthermore, in Australia women are exiting the corporate world and setting up their own businesses at twice the rate of male owned enterprises – 44 per cent vs. 22 per cent.
Thus, there is a major opportunity for any business to improve its ability to utilise, and profit from female human capital. Women comprise an increasingly large proportion not just of your consumers, but also your leaders, employees, suppliers, investors and community stakeholders. It makes complete business sense to ensure that women are an integral part of your business leadership and strategic decision-making forums.
“Gender equity on boards and senior management teams is not a women’s issue,” says Benja. “It is a human talent issue. Women are the most underutilised resource in business, both in their market potential as consumers and in their productive potential as employees.”
Global research supports this, as companies with more women in leadership consistently outperform those with the fewest. Furthermore, organisations that invest in identifying and understanding what motivates and drives women in the global labour market and commercial marketplace have a lot to gain.
For example, when companies facilitate and encourage flexible work arrangements, women are better able to balance their work and private lives, without having to sacrifice one or the other. Pioneers like Capitol One literally run their companies without any mandatory office time. About 85% per cent of Capital One’s knowledge workers have flexible arrangements through their Future of Work Program, which has been credited not just with balancing employees’ lives, but also with improving productivity.
Despite these changes, women still face significant obstacles. Conscious or unconscious gender bias means that many women are employed in roles in which their productivity is not maximised. If the gender productivity gap was eliminated, by putting women into more senior roles where they can realise their full productive potential, the level of economic activity in Australia could be boosted by an estimated 20%.
There are substantial differences in the financing available to, and utilised by, women owned as opposed to men owned businesses. Women start with less capital and are less likely to take on additional debt to expand their business. There is evidence that women are less likely to take on debt than men by choice, but there is also a perception that it is harder for women to access and secure venture or loan capital.
Thus, Womenomics is about redefining success and building satisfying careers that don’t require an all or nothing approach to employment or business.
As British Prime Minister David Cameron asserted: “If we fail to unlock the potential of women, we’re not only failing those individuals we’re failing our whole economy.”
Spending driven by women will support the development of human capital, which will fuel future economic growth. Similarly, economic growth will hopefully continue to strengthen gender equality.