Sunday, May 10, 2020

YES, THE FUTURE IS INCREASINGLY FEMALE


My mother, now 94, grew up in Seremban in the WWII era when women had no voice, no official role to play in society. They were the family nurturer and caregiver, roles thrusted upon them which they accepted without complaint or protest. This was long before women discovered they were multi-skilled and could handle several diverse roles equally well. Many didn't even have a say in who they wanted as their life partner. Their parents made the choice for them. (Above photo taken in 2014: four generations - my mom, me, my elder daughter and two of my grand daughters.)

My mom was widowed in her early 30s. She was left with six young children to raise. Fortunately my relatives and my paternal grandma helped to look after us while my mom was going through depression. I was the eldest and learned to shoulder responsibilities at a young age while still in primary school. 

The women from my mom's era were tough physically and mentally, often raising as many as 10 children singlehandedly, and managing all the housework without the aid of machines. It was a life of daily sweat, toil and stoicism. Their children (that's us baby boomers) have remained eternally appreciative of their mothers to this day. Just look at the thousands of heartfelt outpourings of love and gratitude in cards and stories on Mother's Day every year.

The true emanicipation of women came with the Baby Boomers. We were the first generation that had access to education including post-graduate studies. That was our gateway to jobs and financial independence. We learned to drive and that gave us the freedom to venture further afield, to explore more opportunities and to develop the spirit of adventure. But one thing never changed, and thank God for that. We have continued with our role to put family first and foremost in our life's priority list.

Along with jobs came earning power and purchasing power. Today women consumers are a formidable force that cannot be ignored. They spur growth in the market and the economy.


There is a dearth of research on the breakdown of consumer spending by gender in Malaysia. If the stats for the US are anything to go by, we will likely see a similar trend here. According to MIT AgeLab founder, Joseph Coughlin, in his 2017 book 'The Longevity Economy', women across all ages worldwide influence 64% of consumer purchases. Among older women, the power of female consumers is even more profound as they enjoy longer life expectancy and often outlive their men.

It is common knowledge from decades of observations that in most family households, it is the lady of the house who wields considerable influence on her husband when making decisons on big item purchases. A joint account also gives women more freedom to make purchases. The rise in the number of single professional women as well as single moms further enlarges the pool of female consumers.

From Women's Buying Power
The list below is by no means exhaustive but it gives a clear picture of areas where women hold purchasing power in making decisons. They are often the ones who do the bookings, make reservations and handle the family's accounts and budget.
  1. groceries and household essentials
  2. home appliances (fridge, washing machine, oven, vacuum cleaner)
  3. medicine, supplements, healthcare products
  4. clothing, cosmetics, toiletries
  5. holiday packages (airline, hotel, tours)
  6. restaurants for family dining-out (women make the reservations)
  7. home purchase (women check out the property first and usually have the final say)
  8. schools for their children 
  9. nursing homes, home care (for their elderly parents or in-laws)
  10. senior living (retirement homes, senior travel, dance & fitness classes, lifelong learning)
The longer life expectancy of women also means longer purchasing power for them as evident in the predominance of women in aged care facilities and retirement villages. 

From Ford recognises women's purchasing power
The few remaining areas where male consumers still dominate (but not for long) are in financial products & investments, cars, IT gadgets, sports and hobbies such as golf, fishing, DIY. But this is set to change as women are making their presence felt in almost every sector of the economy and industry. We are also seeing more of them as captains of industry and holding positions in government. More younger women are emerging as successful entrepreneurs, with many running their own online businesses.

We don't need a crystal ball to tell us what the future of the world will look like. It will definitely be female. More so with online shopping getting popular. Advertisers, marketers, product designers, take note. Be prepared and be ready to adjust your plans and projections for the 2020s and beyond.

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