It’s easy to think that the main groups who lead economy of one country are men as they take many of the leading roles. The Ministers of Finance and Economy, famous CEOs, and economists are mainly men. Fortune, a global business magazine, selects a global 500 company every year and according to the report released in 2004, only 16 percent of officers in business, 5 percent of best income earners, and only 2 percent of CEOs were women.
However, many specialists in the area and a number of economists are predicting and giving emphasizing the exponential rise of women as a main body of the economy. This phenomenon is indicated in the development of the word “womenomics.”
The word “womenomics” is appeared in 2006 in the Financial Times, a British international business newspaper. The term "womenomics" is a compound word of ‘women’ and ‘economics’ and it means women-leading economy and society. As Financial Times had predicted, women are getting more power and they have a great deal of influence on many parts of society, not only in the economy but also in politics and sports. For example, there is Hillary Clinton in politics, Oprah Winfrey in media, and Yuna Kim in sports.
The Economist, a weekly news magazine also concentrated on the economic action of women in 2007 through an article ‘Womenomics Revisited.’ Again in 2008, a book named Why Women Should Rule the World was written by Dee Dee Myers, the first female spokesperson of the White House. The title of book translated in South Korea was ‘Womenomics.’ It reflects the great interest on women’s participation in economy in Korea. In the book, she insisted that the world can be changed when men and women together lead the society and communicate with each other, not in the male-dominated society.
The word ‘womenomics’ is also used in a way to suggest that if women’s economic action increases, people could live in a more affluent world. In fact, McKinsey & Company, a worldwide management consulting firm, presented a report that among 100 American companies, the 10 percent of companies with highly ranking female officers had stock price earnings higher than 12 times the an average. Goldman Sachs, a bank holding company that engages in investment banking, and investment management, reported that if the percentage of employment of women was as high as that of men, the GDP would increase by 9 percent in the U.S., 13 percent in Europe, and 16 percent in Japan. At the same time, the United Nations Economic and Social Commission for Asia and the Pacific reported that 420~470 hundred million dollars a year worth of damage was caused by deprivation of economic action due to sexual discrimination.
Another coined word that alludes women’s rise in economics is ‘EVEolution’ the compounded word of ‘Eve’ and ‘revolution.’ This word first appeared in the book ‘Clicking’ written by Faith Popcorn, an author, and founder and CEO of marketing consulting firm BrainReserve. She is emphasizing the importance of female customers in business. According to her, understanding female customers and considering them are the main factors affecting victory or defeat of businesses. Tom Peters, an American management theorist, told Hankyung Business Weekly that the world should observe 3W: World, Web, and Women, if the world economy would continue to grow.
There is also a remarkable report which Hyundai Department Store, a Korean department store, presented in Munhwa Ilbo. They analyzed 46,000 people in five stores in Seoul, and found the total women are 2.3 times more than men. In the case of people in their twenties, even 8.7 times more women are visiting the department store than men. In this context, as women’s conditions of consumption grew in Korea in 2007, the Female Emotions & Marketing Index (FEMI) was developed by Yonsei University and Maeil Business Newspaper. It is an index expressed numerically measuring the emotion of consumers, goods, services, and customer satisfaction.
There is also an interesting marketing strategy called the female marketing ten commandments as reported by Maeil Business Newspaper. Some companies made this and strive to attract female customers. Some of them include “Do not suppress women’ during shopping hours,” “Do not despise gossip of women and make use of it,” “Maintain self-respect of women,” “Liberate women from children and husbands when they are shopping,” “Let them touch and experience.”
Diamonds have often been symbols of marriage placed on the woman’s left hand. However, De Beers, a jewelry company, said that these days, the number of women who can afford to buy diamond rings has increased and they put the rings on their right hands. Actually, De Beer’s sales of rings for the right hand make up 90 percent of their sales. This present situation is not only about jewelry, it is a global trend that purchases of cars, insurance, and luxurious vacation packages are selected by females.
Which Women are Affecting the Market?
"Woman has a different sensitivity from man and should be investigated specially. This could be the very start of woman marketing,” said Kaeko Hino, the Japanese CEO of consulting company, Her Story.
As she said there are women who have become the main factor affecting economy through their age.
-Universities: Alpha (α) Girls
The word ‘alpha girl’ fist appeared in a book ‘Alpha Girls’ written by Dan Kindlon referring to dignified and elite girls who are insisting on the equality between men and women. Greek alphabet ‘α’ is suggesting that they are the first or the best. Senior researcher of Samsung Economics Research Institute, Lee Dong-hun, “Alpha Girls are a new development in the consumer market because they are openly demanding goods and treatments for women. If businesses fail to pinpoint the Alpha Girls, they won’t succeed in marketing. ”
-Companies: Gold Miss
The term “Gold Miss,” created from “Old Miss,” made it on a list of the fad words of 2006 compiled by job search firm Career. “Gold Misses” have typically graduated from college, have professional jobs earning more than 40-45 million won a year, and have sophisticated looks and image. Lee Woong-jin, the chief of dating company Sunoo, says, “Gold misses believe that they can continue to live alone without getting married, and their economic ability is the number one factor that helps them do so,” “They go shopping four or more times a month. More women on higher salaries mean they are a driving force in the workplace.”
“Gold Misses” have also become an important sales target for banks who launch new products to suit them such as Kookmin Bank’s “luxury ladies”, Shinhan Bank’s “Ladies’ Savings Deposit Plan”, and Woori Bank’s “Beauty Account”.
-Family: RUBY people
After marrying, women reaching the age of 40-50 who are interested in themselves are called “RUBY” people, which is an acronym formed from “Refresh,” “Uncommon,” “Beautiful” and “Young.”
To fashion and beauty industries RUBY people are the main target. Senior industries are already treated as stable and safe because their targets are comparatively free from economic instability such as debt from buying a house. Some advertisers and marketers are concentrating on women aged 40 to 45 because they consider them as the largest consumer group.
Women vs Men, at the Department Store
“Men are more likely to respond to more utilitarian aspects of the experience such as the availability of parking, whether the item they came for is in stock, and the length of the checkout line,” the report stated.
Women’s activity of purchase could be considered part of ‘post-feminism.’ ‘Feminism’ existed for struggling against old patriarchal authority. One of main ideas is that women should have political, social, sexual, intellectual and economic rights equal to those of men. It involves various movements, theories, and philosophies, all concerned with issues of gender difference, that advocate equality for women and the campaign for women's rights and interests. Feminists claim that only through this movement can women achieve emancipation of prejudice and discrimination. ‘Post-feminism’ describes a range of viewpoints reacting to feminism. Post-feminists stress the identity of women and through this, women can be compatible with men. They want to be liberated and clearly enjoy their sexuality, but what they are constantly searching for is the one man who will make everything worthwhile. In this context, the activity of purchasing is floated as a means representing women’s desire.
Women Becoming More Powerful
These are not the only the reasons why women are gaining importance as consumers. As women consumers gain economic power and play a primary role, the number of women founders is also increasing highly for the reason that women know women’s minds well. This fact, directly related to the effectiveness of the economic independence of women, is also closely connected to the social status of women.
In May 2009, the Korean Ministry of Gender Equality and many other womens groups cosponsored “Green Consume Activity.” For this participants of this activity founded “G-Korea, Women Council,” which means “Green Life,” “Getting Job,” and “Giving Hope.” Women consumer as a moving spirit of “Green Development,” which is a keynote of the Korean government, shows that women are now the leaders not only in economy but also in policy.
Gallup Korea, a Korean research center, prospected through their report in 2008 that in the future of Korean society, minority consumers such as women, foreigners and the aged would rise as main consumers. They especially emphasized that women’s social activity and change of recognition would alleviate the problem of preference for sons and the patriarchal climate still existing in Korean society.
Something to Think About
As a good point of women consumer exists, the other side exists. In Seoul, about 40 kinds of women magazines issued every month. In place of independence of women, however the substances in it are promoting women to subjugate to keep pace with the current style.
Another problem is about “luxury goods.” Luxury goods are not always bad because import of high quality products it stimulates the Korean market and the company able to make products recognized by the world market. Also consumer’s standard of selecting products would develop.
According to the interview with Dr.Lee Si-Hyung of neuropsychiatry of Samsung Medical Center by Lady Kyunghyang, he declared that enthusiasm for luxury goods is a passing vogue. He instanced developed countries’ former enthusiasm for luxury goods and now it’s not that great an issue in the countries. “This is the current of the times. Once in Japan and in the U.S., there were a number of people who were eager to buy luxury goods, but not many of that kind of people exist now. This phenomenon is a kind of expression of individuality that one prefers goods which few people are using. Yet if every person has the same product that one has, it would be heartily sick of that without fail. Naturally, desire for luxury goods and side effects derived from them would decrease.” He also suggested that women’s characteristics are more sensitive to vogue style. Women in general have a tendency of taking a serious consideration of appearance, and they are greatly interested in fashion and beauty. Also in Korean society, men have many things to concentrate on such as success in their place of work. However, on the other hand, women, especially in Korea, are told from their early ages that women should meet good husbands for their life and that women should always dress up to be seen pretty. As a result, naturally women pay careful attention to their appearance and show greater interest in luxury goods than men do to show themselves off.
New Suggestion for Women
According to Gallup Research Korea, in general, women tend to find more pleasure in the course to the goal rather than achieving the goal, while men are more goal-oriented. As a result, purchasing is not just a behavior of buying but is like a pleasurable travel to women that helps them to find a way to raise and show off their value.
For now also, large numbers of people are shopping everywhere in the department store, in the market, and even on the Internet. It’s definitely a positive phenomenon that women are continually rising as main actors of economy and influence. Also women have become more independent through their economic activities. Yet, still it’s very important to examine oneself ceaselessly to have an affirmative influence through intelligent purchasing.
In these contexts, Gallup Research Korea suggests a new way to shopping—CSI. Check, Sense and Interact. Through CSI, women could have more influence in economics in a better way.
@Check: It is a better way for women before going shopping to believe themselves to be reasonable consumers and check various products to get a best result from shopping. Women also find pleasure in this process.
@Sense: Women should use five senses to get a best result. A decision is made through every condition.
@Interact: After buying, they actively share their experience and find advantages and disadvantages of the products on-line or in stores.
The Journal of Distribution, ‘Choice and Focus Marketing’, February 2009
Rules of Gossip, Kaeko Hino, 2004, Jisangsa
Marketing to women: how to understand, reach, and increase your share of the world's largest market segment, Barletta, Martha 2003, Dearborn Trade Pub.
<Future Trend> by Gallup Insight, February 2009