There’s a revolution happening and it’s a good one! According to the Intuit 2020 Report, about 870 million women around the globe who have not previously participated in the mainstream economy will gain employment or start their own business by the year 2020. Most of these women – 822 million – will come from non-industrialized countries, while roughly 47 million will come from North America, Western Europe and Japan.
In 2016, there were 1.75 billion women in the labor force, and numbers are on the rise. The number of In women in the Australian workforce jumped from 43 percent to 60 percent from 1978 to 2015, and women account for about half of the Canadian labor force. In the African countries of Uganda, Namibia, and Nigeria, females are three times more likely to be entrepreneurs. Not only are they participating in the workforce in greater numbers than ever, women are also making positive contributions to the economy. Two years ago, US women were credited with making 85 percent of all consumer purchases, controlling approximately $14 trillion of the wealth. Women continue to revolutionize the way we adapt products, experiences, and messaging, establishing an impressive and ever-growing economy that is often referred to as the “SHEconomy.” This isn’t a new term, but rather one coined sometime in or around 2010 as the evolution of women in the workplace continued to evolve and in addition to making the majority of the purchasing decisions, women were also playing a larger role in business and earning substantially more than ever before. Time magazine covered that nicely in its 2010 piece: Women Power, the Rise of the SHEconomy.
Thanks to things like increased access to education and professional opportunities, as well as mobile technologies, it is estimated that the gender gap in pay will all but close by 2020, and that can’t happen quickly enough. Though still fairly new, the SHEconomy is already making positive and lasting effects.
Women as Customers
Women are powerful influencers in their respective communities, and technology has made it easy to share their voice and perspective around the globe. For instance, violence against women in India spurred international conversation, resulting in companies creating apps and services to keep women safe. Because of this growing female customer base, all mobile phones sold in India now come equipped with a mandatory panic button, with the mandatory GPS feature coming out next year, making it easier for these at-risk women to contact emergency services.
Not only are women exacting positive change in the name of safety, but their lifestyles and preferences are garnering enough attention that global marketing efforts are now (finally) geared toward the female consumer. Chinese women’s affinity for things like fitness and high-quality shopping have spawned an upward trend in spending on gyms and yoga studios, as well as specialized online shopping experiences dubbed “Queen’s Day” and “Girl’s Day.” A report published by Amazon.cn notes that “with the upgrade of women’s spending power and consumption demand, women consumers are paying more attention to product quality and brands.” Companies recognize the opportunity within offering a good deal at a reasonable price, but emphasize the importance of a smooth online shopping and service experience as being what really makes a difference in their efforts to target and successfully market to women.
Women as Business Leaders
As previously discussed, women all over the African continent are leading entrepreneurs, which is a change from what we often see in countries like the U.S. and within Europe. But that’s changing. In the United States, women-owned businesses are responsible for employing 7.8 billion people! While a gender gap still very much exists, we are slowly but surely seeing increasing numbers of women in the C-Suite and on boards, helming Fortune 500 companies, and opening dialogue and doors for more female leadership. Most notably, you can’t deny a woman’s presence in the wearables industry; “there’s Leah Buechley, inventor of the Lily Pad Arduino; academics like Dr. Rosalind Picard, founder, and director of the Affective Computing research group at the MIT Media Lab; Corinne Vigreux, founder, and COO, TomTom; and Ivy Ross, Vice President, Head of Design/User Experience for all Hardware Products at Google.”
What’s more is that these women are reported to be more capital-driven, successfully achieving more than a 35 percent return on investment. In the last decade, women-owned businesses with $10 million or more in revenue have grown 47 percent fasterthan male-owned businesses, with startups lauding women leadership as the reason for their success. Studies show that when five or more women are in high-level roles at a startup, success rates skyrocket to 61 percent. Now is certainly a good time to fund a company with a female entrepreneur at the helm—hopefully the VC community is paying attention.
Drivers of Economic Growth
When Christine Lagarde, managing director of the IMF, spoke at a Washington conference, she emphasized how women in the labor force “boost growth, promote diversity, reduce economic inequality around the world, and help companies earn more.” Seems like a no-brainer to support a booming female-powered economy, and women are going out of their way to do just that. Women are mentoring younger, inexperienced women, helping to ensure their paths to success are less rocky than those who have come before. This support system has positively impacted the economy, as seen in the recent increase in venture capital investments in women-run companies. In 2000, women-led businesses only earned 6 percent of investments, whereas today, that number is well over 40 percent.
Make no mistake, I’m not looking at this—women’s role in business, in the economy, even in government—through rose-colored glasses. I know that there is still a gender wage gap, there is still disparity—in the workplace, boardrooms, and executive suites, in legislative and governing entities, and that female-led ventures are often not funded in parity with male-led ventures. But I believe that we’re making inroads and that change is underway. I know that it certainly is within my company, and that’s something I’m very proud of. The ultimate goal is to have recognition across the board of the rights and abilities of women and more women in leadership roles. When that happens, disparity will become a non-issue and the global economy, and everyone as a whole, will reap the benefits. Women make the world go ’round, in every way. The SHEconomy is here, and it’s definitely going nowhere but up.