Want A Piece Of The 18 Trillion Dollar Female Economy? Start With Gender Bias
“It is really important to not stereotype all women. You need to speak to them as individuals. This is not just true of the female market, it is true of how to market to any audience,” says Dhanusha Sivajee, the EVP of Editorial and Marketing at XO Group Inc., which includes the brands The Knot, The Bump, The Nest.
Sivajee says that women are the most powerful consumers in the economy. “Global spending by women will be about $18 trillion by next year. We reach an average of 20 million millennials, mostly women, each month. Across these monumental life stages, women are spending over $150 billion annually.”
Given the size of this market it would be foolish for organizations not to cater to the needs of the female consumer. Yet Sivajee says because of gender stereotyping, organizations often do just that.
"Just because you are marketing to women, don’t think of it as some magic wand that you can wave because all women are a certain way. You really have to think about their individual needs,” she says.
In this interview, Sivajee shares how tackling gender bias will help organizations take on the world’s most powerful consumers, women.
Michelle King: Why are women such a driving force of consumer spending?
Dhanusha Sivajee: Whether women are working or even if they are at home, we see that women drive 70 to 80% of all consumer purchases. This has a lot to do with the multiplier effect. Even if women are not making the transaction they are still impacting the decisions because they are the primary caregiver of children and the elderly.
King: What does it mean it cater to women effectively?
Sivajee: Research has shown time and time again that this is a powerful consumer base. We look at it as the power of the female 'she economy.’ That means two things: understanding the hearts and minds of female consumers and tapping into the shared mindset, but it also means not falling into the gender stereotypes that all women are the same.
King: Is this simply about hiring more women?
Sivajee: We are a company for women by women. About 70% of our employee base is female. Often in organizations women will disappear at the senior ranks, but at our company nearly 60% of our executive team is female and nearly 40% of our board is female as well. But we don’t go out of our way to hire women.
We want to hire the best person for the job, it just so happens that 7 out of 10 times it tends to be a woman. I think it is more important for companies to hire and retain the best and create a culture where diverse perspectives are heard. We encourage healthy conflict and debate. This ensures it is the norm to engage women’s viewpoints so they can effectively drive results and move the company forward.
King: How can organizations meet the needs of women?
Sivajee: While it’s important not to stereotype women... there are some common threads between the female audience. For example, the power of word of mouth marketing among females. We have found that 90% of our female audience makes a point to pass along deals and information to other women. They also will take the time to review and help that next wave of consumers. So include programs that allow them to do that.
Given the power of this audience, it’s important to remember to not just put women in your advertising but rather to have them front and center of your content and product development. Beyond just seeing themselves in advertising of a product, women’s needs should be key in developing the product.
King: How can organizations ensure they don’t fall into the gender bias trap?
Sivajee: Women don’t just want to see themselves in advertising. A lot of companies will start by just having women in the advertising campaign. Or by doing that ‘female empowerment’ campaign. While these marketing initiatives can have a positive impact, they are just the foundation. The next generation of marketing to women is putting women at the center of the product development.