For every ad featuring strong women and girls, there’s the inexplicable product that was marketed specifically to women—but didn’t have to be. From household cleaners to snacks, some brands are creating unnecessarily gendered versions of products and often charging women more for it. The spotlight on this practice, which is referred to as the “pink tax,” is growing hotter. And it’s leaving the door wide open for new brands to make waves by openly calling attention to pink taxed items, challenging sexist stereotypes, empowering underprivileged women and creating products that put the comfort and desires of women, rather than society’s expectations, first.
For brands to succeed today, they need to find ways to address the challenges women face. Making up half of the population, women are key influencers around the globe. The reality is that women still shoulder most of the household responsibilities. On average, 89% of women around the world say they have shared or primary responsibility for daily shopping, household chores and food prep. As a result, they’re also the primary purchaser for everyday household items. But taking on this second, sometimes third job means that women have additional demands each week and less time to meet them. This makes women one of the largest opportunities for convenience-led technologies and services.
But convenience isn’t the only chance for brands to make a significant difference in the lives of women. Nearly half (46%) of women globally believe that financially, they are worse off or about the same compared with five years ago. In Europe, that percentage is even higher, at 66%, followed closely by North America at 61%. While “about the same” might appear positive, a flat income does not help offset rising costs of things such as food and childcare and other costs of living.
In both Latin America and Europe, the financial pressures are stronger, and over half of women (54% and 52%, respectively) feel that they only have enough money for food, shelter and basics, which is about 10 percentage points higher than men.
While women are making great strides, global equality still sits out of reach. In fact, the World Economic Forum estimates that equality won’t be a reality for another 108 years. Women must first overcome serious barriers, including: a lack of hiring diversity, laws preventing them from working, short or non-existent maternity and paternity leave, insufficient access to education and more. These issues are particularly top of mind for women in Africa, the Middle East and in Latin America, where job security and the economy are top concerns.
So how do we push for progress? Companies can become champions for women by addressing inequalities in pay and leadership, as well as by establishing flexible hours and options to work from home.
Outside of the workplace, women are looking for ways to get back what she values the most—time, which often means reducing time spent on weekday chores. Brands can help by enriching and simplifying her daily life, supporting women in underprivileged communities, and creating products and services that solve her everyday challenges.
Globally, 61% of women say that a convenient store location is a highly influential factor when deciding where to shop, compared with 53% of men. Women are looking for ways to maximize efficiency, preferring stores that are easy to get in and out of, have organized layouts or that offer time-saving services.
When shopping online, women are more likely to want risk-free guarantees and convenience. For example, free delivery for online shopping from Tuesday through Thursday particularly appeals to women in North America, Africa, the Middle East, Europe and Southeast Asia. Women are also more likely to be interested in receiving notifications when an item ordered is out-of-stock and when products come with money back guarantees.
Despite financial, work and time pressures, women are laser focused on living healthier, better lives. They aren’t willing to compromise on their health, which is a top priority globally, especially in North America, Europe and Asia-Pacific.
How do women interpret what’s healthy? They are more likely to scrutinize the items on the shelf than men, looking for transparent labels and for companies that are open about where their products come from and how they’re produced. The gender gap is especially large in North America, where 67% of women are reading labels to determine if a product is healthy, compared to 48% of men.
Brands can win hearts by prioritizing quality ingredients. Globally, 58% of women believe that high-quality ingredients and materials are what makes something premium, compared to 54% of men. In Africa and the Middle East, women are 23% more likely than men to believe this (59% vs. 48%). The next largest gender gaps are in Southeast Asia and North America, where women are 13% more likely to link the two attributes together.
So what does this all mean for manufacturers and retailers?
It means that shifting gender norms are swiftly moving from minority to mainstream, especially in markets dominated by working-age Millennial consumers. Yet, gender bias remains commonplace in modern-day advertising, and both men and women are noticing. Stereotypes that might have been acceptable a few years ago now elicit a cringe. While cultural norms vary globally, it’s critical that brands communicate the important role men play in women’s empowerment and equality journey—from encouraging and defending inclusivity in the workplace to sharing the load at the home.
Patronage is increasingly contingent on a true understanding of a woman’s needs and reflecting her reality on screen, on the shelf and in the store. And brands that are getting it right—be it through social responsibility, sustainability, health or convenience—will continue to win wallets. Those that don’t change fast enough won’t.
It also means that companies that want to succeed won’t only donate to women’s causes. They will actively hire women, ensure women are paid equally and offer maternity and paternity leave. It’s not just good for business, it’s the only choice. Companies that step away from media headlines and roll up their sleeves to make sure their policies help women both as employees and as people living in the community will be contributing and growing a powerful group that holds considerable sway over household spending.
In short, brands and retailers that focus more on how they can lessen the load off women’s shoulders and less on the color of their packaging will earn more dollars.