Monday, February 4, 2008

Wake Up Business, the Women Are Already Here

I've been planning to make a post here at some point that highlights the need that businesses need to play closer attention to women and their influence in the world today. However it's always hard to know when to do the pointing, I have gut intuition that it's a good thing but where are the facts. A new book has been published, titled "Why Women Mean Business: Understanding the Emergence of our next Economic Revolution" by Avivah Wittenberg-Cox and Alison Maitland. As the title suggests the book pushes the agenda that it's not a women agenda issue but a business issue to pay attention to. In a sample chapter they quote research completed by Catalyst that demonstrates that companies with a higher proportion of women in their senior teams outperformed those companies that had lower proportion of women. Women also dominate 80% of spending decisions. According to the Consumer Electronics Association women spend $55B of the $96B that gets spent on technology. There was an article on an Australian site recently that also showed that Women are the decision makers in the purchasing of houses as well, and more women are buying their own houses – the social balance of who has spending power is changing on both big and small purchases. So much change in the power of the female consumer and yet we have to see proportional changes in how companies are managed at the top levels.

I intend to get a copy of the book to understand their research and perspective more throughly, but it is motivating to consider what they layout in chapter one as a new time and place - women have finally been working alongside men in workforce for a couple of decades now, and women have also have increased their spending power, and women around the world are critical to the workforce unlike any other time - if companies don't wake up and figure out how to adjust their business attitude and method of operating to address their audiences then they will fall short.
We need to see more women making it onto board of directors, where we are pitifully represented. I was encouraged last month by seeing the new board member for Apple was Andrea Jung who is CEO for Avon. Now of course board members don't exactly influence product strategy but imagine a company like Apple who is known for trends thinks to harness the sensibilities of a female leader of a company that is completely targeted at the female population - interesting conversations might happen in the smoke filled room. Microsoft's announcement of it's new research lab in Boston also announced the director of the lab would be Jennifer Tour Chayes, who will be the first woman to head up a Microsoft research lab. I believe many of the large companies are trying to figure out gender issues but are not sure how to turn the corner - strategy corners are perhaps easier to turn than culture corners?
I'll take a look at the 'Why Women Mean Business:..' book and post a review later.

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