New Generation of Women Expects Gender Equality – as Economic Improvement Prompts Focus on the Future

New Generation of Women Expects Gender Equality – as Economic Improvement Prompts Focus on the Future

As economic anxiety eases, women of all ages across the world are shifting priorities and charting the course for the future, according to a global research study published today. In addition, the findings suggest Gen Y women, with similar perspectives and marketplace preferences that transcend borders and cultures shaped by shared experiences of technology, social media and emerging brands, have been deemed the first truly global generation of consumers.

The study, the fifth wave of “Women, Power & Money,” was led by FleishmanHillard, communications firm, and Hearst Magazines, publisher of monthly magazines, with research company Ipsos MediaCT. An industry-leading exploration on women’s lives, lifestyles and marketplace impact, the study examined differences between three generations of women (Gen Y, aged 21-34; Gen X, 35-49; and Baby Boomers, 50-69). Started in 2008 in the United States, the findings include – for the first time – the United Kingdom, France, Germany and China.

“Over the past five years, we have watched the evolution of American women as their power and influence on practically every level across the home, marketplace and workplace continues to ascend,” said Lisa Dimino, FleishmanHillard senior vice president and senior partner. “Today we find that true both for women around the world and across generations who are heading up most households, driving value- and price-focused purchases, and generally satisfied with their lives. Though women are more educated but paid less than their spouses, there are signs that a new global generation of Gen Y women is working hard to rectify that inequity.”

Future Focus, Long-Term Path

In the five countries studied, as economic anxiety eases, women are more future-focused, shifting priorities and primary concerns from personal finances to longer-term concerns for self, family and business. In fact, American women noted a dramatic decrease of economic angst (an 11 point drop from Wave 4) and the top concern, “the future of [her] children,” moved from the third spot up to No. 1.

Women around the world are relatively satisfied with their family, home and self, though satisfaction dynamics vary across generation and aspects of life. In the U.S., Gen Y and Gen X women note consistently lower satisfaction in home life (family, relationships, self), work-life balance, career and finances. However, approximately half of boomers were extremely or very satisfied in these. The study finds American women remain focused on the future, long-term goals and meeting their own high expectations as compared to men, who ride a roller coaster of emotions and expectations as they mature.

Generational Evolution: Gen Y Women Feel Potential – and Pressure

The “Battle of the Sexes” is becoming a foreign concept for Gen Y women around the world, who perceive greater gender equality in skills, opportunities and accomplishments, shaped by being raised with a “girls can do anything boys can do” attitude. For example, post-Title IX (the educational amendment prohibiting sex discrimination) in the U.S., 70 percent of Gen Y women surveyed describe themselves as “smart,” compared to only 54 percent of Gen Y men. That gender gap shrinks among Gen Xers (women 63 percent/men 55 percent), and disappears among boomers (57 for both women and men). The downside of higher expectations is the demanding climb to succeed. American Gen Y women are most inclined to describe themselves as “stressed” (40 percent) and “exhausted” (29 percent).

More Gender Equality, But Not Equal Pay

“Globally, the study finds that women have achieved an equality of aspiration, but not an equality of results,” said Dr. Stephen Kraus, senior vice president and chief insights officer of Ipsos MediaCT’s Audience Measurement Group. “She is the CEO of most households, and few would tell her that she can’t aspire to be the CEO of a corporation. But she realizes that she faces an uphill battle.”

In each of the five countries surveyed, more than 80 percent of women agree, “Men are often paid more than women, even for doing the same work,” and about half agree that many men resent the advancements women have made in recent years. Overall, women see themselves as stronger than men in areas of “emotional strength,” such as having difficult conversations or rebounding from setbacks, and acknowledge that men often have more success in negotiating and proactively asking for salary increases. Interestingly, Gen Y women tend to see more gender equality in all of these areas.

Vast Product Choices Creating “Option Overwhelm”

As consumers, women around the world control day-to-day purchasing, partnering in big-ticket and financial decisions and committed to value- and price-focused choices. However, they are increasingly frustrated by “option overwhelm” – confusion over the vast number of product choices and variants available these days. More than half of women (53 percent) in China are overwhelmed by the choices, followed by France (47 percent), Germany (45 percent), the U.K. (36 percent) and U.S. (32 percent), where tracking data suggests “option overwhelm” is on the rise with American women since the previous wave in 2011.

Particularly challenging for marketers, option overwhelm often leads to even more price-sensitivity, as female shoppers default to simpler decisions of buying the least expensive or on-sale product. And even though women around the world are proud of their smart purchase decisions and highly satisfied with their current products (with the exception of China), they continue to be extremely open to new brands, driven heavily by customer and expert reviews, word of mouth, and media.

“Strong, simplified messaging and product portfolios will give marketers a real opportunity to stand out in today’s crowded marketplace, especially among the majority of women who are willing to try new brands,” says Marlene Greenfield, vice president, executive director of research, Hearst Magazines. “With few considering themselves ‘brand loyal,’ existing brands cannot rest on their laurels, and new brands can make a notable impact by clearly defining the product attributes.”

A Closer Look at Country Comparisons

The “Women, Power & Money” study finds women around the world have a lot in common when it comes to similarities in their home life, career and shopping habits. In fact, women in the U.S. and U.K. were particularly similar. Some of the key areas where things varied across the five countries:

  • In Germany, where smart shopping is a way of life, women are highly satisfied as consumers and are feeling relative economic strength. Their European counterparts in the U.K. and France are still feeling the economic pinch, while American women’s economic concerns are prevalent, but easing.
  • French women have the strongest perceptions of gender equality in society and their households. German women note more gender specialization in the home, but relatively equal opportunity in politics.
  • American women prefer spending on “experiences,” whereas French women prefer spending on “things.”
  • British women are most open to trying new brands and also have a strong desire to help others make smart purchase decisions.
  • French women are highly concerned about food safety. Chinese women are also concerned about food safety, as well as product safety and quality more generally.
  • Women in China and Germany expressed the strongest interest in luxury across a variety of categories.

About the Study

“Women, Power & Money” Wave 5, Seizing the Future, was conducted online during February 2013, among 1,008 women in the U.S. aged 25-69 with an annual household income of $25,000 or more. For comparison purposes, 503 men were also surveyed. This comprehensive tracking study was first conducted in 2008. Wave 5 was broadened internationally, including some 750 interviews with women conducted in each country including the UK, France, Germany and China. In total, more than 4,500 interviews were completed. In addition, one-on-one in-depth interviews with a smaller group of women were completed to bring qualitative richness to the online data. Read more…

Download the White Paper here.

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