Who wins when women buy? Everybody

A financial revolution is afoot -- and women are spending and earning their way to a better world

By Mary Elizabeth Williams

Senior Writer

Published September 16, 2009 6:17PM (EDT)

It’s no secret that women have buying power. We already purchase roughly 85 percent of the goods and services in the United States, from clothes to cars. But that’s just been the warm-up.

According to the new book “Women Want More: How to Capture Your Share of the World’s Largest, Fastest-Growing Market” females are on the brink of an even bigger global economic revolution. As we maintain our spending power while gaining representation in the workforce and narrowing the income gap, we are, according to co-author Michael J. Silverstein, “the greatest single force for economic recovery.”

The book, by the Boston Consulting Group’s Silverstein and Kate Sayre, is essentially a guidebook for marketers, but the research that went into it is fascinating to anybody who ever spends money. How powerful are the female purse strings? The authors say that “women now control $12 trillion of the overall $18.4 trillion in global consumer spending.” And as a predicted 200 million additional females enter the global workforce over the next few years, that number is just going to get bigger.

So while we may still have to fight for our right to wear pants and keep our jobs while lactating, it’s easy to do the math on this one. When women have financial clout, our status not just as consumers but human beings on the planet rises.

An August study from Goldman Sachs on “The Power of the Purse” notes that women are “notably more likely to buy goods and services that improve the family’s welfare" (splurging on stuff like "higher-quality and protein-intensive food," healthcare and education), and that having more women in the workforce creates “a virtuous circle” of long-term overall financial growth. It also “underscores the importance of girls’ education and health, and strengthens the case for women to play a meaningful role in local and national politics.” And as Rana Foroohar and Susan H. Greenberg point out in this week’s Newsweek, with economic power comes a whole host of perks for everybody, from improved worldwide literacy rates to lowered population growth. Who said money can’t buy happiness? It just depends on who’s spending. 

By Mary Elizabeth Williams

Mary Elizabeth Williams is a senior writer for Salon and author of "A Series of Catastrophes & Miracles."

MORE FROM Mary Elizabeth Williams

Related Topics ------------------------------------------