Consumer Report

Women At Work

In 1997, it's news to no one that women are working. The trend that began with the women's movement of the '60s is now an inescapable reality. According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, some 59 percent of women participate in the paid work force today, compared to 48 percent in 1977.

Though most of us take working women for granted, their impact on society can't be underestimated. For one thing, increased economic power means women consumers can no longer be marginalized.

"When I started working with big companies [in the '70s], they looked at women as relevant mainly as purchasers of domestic items," says marketing and trends consultant Judith Langer of Langer Associates Inc. in New York City. "Now it's recognized that women play vital roles in all kinds of purchases. Even in the high-tech [industry], which is skewed toward men, companies can't afford to ignore the needs of women."

What do women need from your business? Try respect and courtesy without condescension. And since more and more households are headed by two wage-earners--or single women and men--time is the ultimate commodity.

"Today, no matter how little money you have, you have more money than time," says marketing guru Martha Rogers, co-author with Don Peppers of Enterprise One to One: Tools for Competing in the Interactive Age (Doubleday/Currency) and co-founder of Stamford, Connecticut-based Marketing 1:1 Inc. "People accept that they have to spend money [to acquire things], but spending time is another matter."

Dual-income couples have spawned another contemporary phenomenon: the economically powerful kid. According to New York City market research firm Packaged Facts, children aged 5 to 14 spend an estimated $16.7 billion and influence the spending of another $150 billion annually. Packaged Facts reports that children today are increasingly independent, entrusted with a range of family responsibilities, and encouraged to participate in family buying decisions.

The same applies to teens. Teenage Research Unlimited in Northbrook, Illinois, estimates teens aged 12 to 19 spent $70 billion of their own money and another $33 billion of family money in 1996.

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This article was originally published in the May 1997 print edition of Entrepreneur with the headline: Consumer Report.

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