The Emerging Economic Power of Women

by Sully
An interesting study was recently released about the world's next emerging market: women. While men's total worldwide income still doubles women's ($23.4 trillion vs. $10.5 trillion), the market gap is decreasing with less gender disparity between wages and an influx in the number of women who are finding jobs. Ideally, gender in the workforce (similar to race, religion, etc.) is not a factor or detail… it is not even an afterthought. Ideally, we will reach a point where a gender descriptor in front of an executive's title is not necessary or important to note.
We are in an awkward transitional period right now; women are succeeding and pulling their weight with men. It should be commended - after all, we've come a long way since the women labor unions were formed in 1844 - but there is a fine line between commending achievements and defining those achievements by gender.
Keeping that balance in perspective, a recent Newsweek article states that women's success will help drive the current post-recession world economy, representing “the biggest emerging market in the history of the planet-more than twice the size of the two hottest developing markets, India and China, combined.” Partly because female spending is focused on the right stuff (health, education and children), women are now the “economic engine of the future.”
Some other statistics from the article that stood out to me:

  • Women control $12trillion of the world's $18.4 trillion in annual consumer spending
  • Literacy rates for young women are almost universally within a single digit percentage of men's
  • 70 percent of women in developing countries, like China and Vietnam, work
  • Women's earned income is growing at 8.1 percent versus 5.8 percent for men

From an IT industry perspective, the number of women executives continues to decline. According to the WomenWhoTech Web site, only 26 percent of women held professional positions in the IT industry in 2006 and women only account for 28 percent of the workforce in proprietary software. Currently, women in the technology industry are rarely quoted by mainstream media and blogs, and are not chosen nearly as much as their male counterparts to present on panels at technology conferences. Our society still feels the need to make note of gender when a successful IT executive is not a man. As women, we root for the success and cheer on other Type A women who are succeeding as “minorities” in the market, but ultimately, we strive to reach the ideal point where we can honor a successful industry expert without feeling the need to clarify her gender.
Women In Technology recently surveyed 167 female technologists and discovered that a quarter of respondents found being a woman irrelevant to their success. One woman's response to the survey: “There will always be stumbling blocks, but it's more your own determination and motivation that contributes to your success.”
This mindset is invaluable. We will continue to grow if women view their successes - and failures - as a product of themselves, not their gender.
Read the full Newsweek article here. Learn more about the Boston Consulting Group's research survey and book, “Women Want More: How to Capture Your Share of the World's Largest, Fastest-Growing Market.”