By: Kieran Flanagan
Now don’t jump to stereotypical conclusions and presume it is because women like to shop or something ridiculous like that. Granted, statistically, you would be correct with women controlling at least 20 trillion dollars in annual spending in the US alone ‒ that is a substantial amount of cash for shoes and lipstick, ladies!
But here is the thing, women’s spending goes much deeper than stereotypical things: electrical, cars, banking, cable, phones, hardware, and the list goes on. Women make the majority of purchase decisions in virtually every category. If you have something of value to offer them, they are indeed good for your business.
Yet the real point is that women are good for business because businesses with women in them do better. In fact, study after study has found companies with women on their boards outperform those without. Also, those businesses with more women in them are more likely to be flexible and to pay better.
If I was sitting on a board of a large corporate firm right now I would be a little worried about the lack of women around the table. Not simply because it looks archaic but because corporate life as we know it is under threat and needs all the help it can get if it is to successfully re-invent for tomorrow. The way we used to do business is up for grabs and what was once the benefit of a large corporation is quickly becoming a negative or in the very least a challenge.
Not all that long ago “large” meant you had scale, which correlated to power. Yet today, technology is flipping that model and small can access many of the things that were once reserved for the big players. Imagine bringing a product to market 20 years ago, it was hard for the small person. Access to prototypes, manufacturers, ip lawyers, distributors and the like was limited and far easier if you had deep pockets and a big network. Today, with nothing more than a big idea and a computer you can crowd source funding, develop and produce a product, pay a distribution company and get it to market. (OK, I know it is far from that simple and requires a huge amount of work, but it is far easier than it once was).
One could argue that the speed in which a small or entrepreneurial player can move actually gives them advantage. Think of a small nimble SWAT team versus a large lumbering army. Changing thousands, or tens of thousand of people, systems and products is far more challenging than changing a few. The fact many of the worlds biggest brands from Amazon to Google to Facebook did not exist all that long ago is testament to this as these businesses began small and rapidly grew.
Women now own 40 percent of entrepreneurial and small businesses in the US, employing over 23 million people and this number is growing. To give you some idea of the scale, if they were combined into their own country, they would have the 5th largest GDP in the world. When the corporate world fails them with a lack of flexibility, autonomy and reward, they move in search of a better life and write their own rules. See, the corporate world should be feeling a little nervous.
They leave because flexibility at work is slow to happen. Currently, it usually means you can arrive a little later, leave a little earlier and occasionally work at home, but that is not enough. As people’s attitude toward work shifts, and if businesses want to attract great talent and retain them, they need to get better at it. After all, Generation Y is the first generation to ever rate meaning ahead of money. Now you can complain about their supposed lack of work ethic all you like, but you have to admire the different approach on some level.
Deep down we all wish we had the guts to walk out of a job that makes us miserable, quit because the weather is too nice, or because you fancy trying your hand at dj-ing in Ibiza. This attitude towards work means we can no longer sell the model we had and women are good at building businesses that can do just this. Work needs to offer much more than money to get many people to buy in. From flexibility, social conscience, contribution and greater collaboration, businesses with women at the top are more likely to be better at offering more than just money.
Women are good for business because business is at an interesting point in history and requires a different approach. The old models are constantly being reinvented, the current rules of business are not necessarily working and the expectations of people are shifting. If we want businesses that thrive tomorrow, we should not simply want women in business… we need them.
Image courtesy of radnatt/freedigitalphotos.net
Kieran Flanagan is a behavioral researchers and strategist, specializing in behaviors and belief systems–what drives, motivates and influences us. She and her partner Dan Gregory have won business awards around the world for Innovation, Creativity and ROI working with such organizations as Coca-Cola, Unilever, News Corp and the United Nations in Singapore. They are passionate advocates for the commercial power of creativity and a return to more human engagement, cultures and leadership. Published by WILEY, Kieran and Dan’s new book Selfish, Scared & Stupid is available in paperback RRP $22.95 from www.selfishscaredandstupid.com.