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To feel a bit put out that 70% of spending is controlled by women but ...

(78 Posts)
alicatte Tue 04-Aug-15 22:51:34

To feel a bit put out that if 70% of spending is controlled by women why is 80% of our choice of product made by men? I was really shocked at how few women are at board level

I can't help feeling that experienced women should get to make the CHOICE, rather than just being in a focus group.

Cabrinha Wed 05-Aug-15 00:31:05

I am not shocked by it, and am actually surprised and encouraged that it's now 20%! Though it needs to rise.
I definitely think that women should have an equal opportunity to rise on merit.

However, I disagree that if women are buying, other women should be choosing!

Don't lump me in with other women or make them speak / choose for me because I have a vagina! A man can bring a great product to market as surely as a woman can.

I'd have no issue buying a product developed by an all male board, if that company also sometimes had an all female board and it was just it's current phase.

I daresay that whilst women make decisions on more day to day household spending, men are more represented in spending on things like pensions and investments. Should financial services companies within the FTSE 350 therefore have a male dominated board? Of course not!

I'd love to see equal board membership. I'm not interested in women choosing for women.

alicatte Wed 05-Aug-15 09:38:43

I agree on an individual level, great product design is gender neutral. My sons have some friends who see themselves as 'gender neutral' and I love the idea. But, as I get older, I cannot help wondering whether our world could be more sensibly designed and my experience of being a woman over time has made me think.

Working patterns don't really allow career development for mothers very easily and if you take time out, you may well find yourself considered too old to progress when you get back. I do understand that men can also find the 'worker bee' lifestyle very lonely and difficult too so working patterns can be universally problematic. But I don't think they are as damaging if you are male.

I also just wonder, as I have grown older, whether my experience of being a woman and consequently of changing priorities in my appreciation of products - veering towards simplicity, durability and elegance (and away from 'novelty', bright, and 'sexy' stuff) is more widely applicable. Maybe this is just within my friendship group - but it seems to be a shared experience.

Actually, I don't know anyone whose male partner chooses and purchases financial products either - it is just the man's name appearing first on the application because they earn more. It always seems to be the woman trawling through a range of 'not quite right' products and then, if possible, making a final decision together with their partner - although often this is alone too because their partner's working life takes up so much time.

In my experience purchasing a car is the same, my DH seems to want to make a joint decision but a lot of women I know make the decision alone.

Gosh this is really making me think. Perhaps financial services need more experienced women at board level too so they can choose more sensibly designed products to bring to market.

Forgive me for thinking out loud. I don't think female biology is the defining factor here, it is the experience of living and growing older as a mother and/or a woman in our society. I think women have a lot to contribute from our experience of juggling. I appreciate the 'fairness' aspect but suspect there might also be a commercial advantage in gaining an experienced female view at the true point of choice.

Crikey this is really making me think. I am still shocked at the imbalance at board level.

Babycham1979 Wed 05-Aug-15 09:54:32

Surely these statistics raise a bigger question; who really holds the power?

I think Alicatte accidentally alludes to the issue. That is, that men are far more likely to work for many more years (despite dying earlier and retiring later), for much longer hours, earning more money. Yet, the vast majority of purchasing decisions in this advanced capitalist economy are made by women.

To me, this begs the question, who's getting the shitty end of the stick? The 'worker bees' or the queen bees? I realise this is a simplification, and it is - partly - a provocation, but we're all too quick to see things through the typical male/female paradigm of 'patriarchy' and oppression.

alicatte Wed 05-Aug-15 10:08:38

I think you have made a good point Babycham. I agree that working patterns are problematic for everyone. Perhaps more balance at board level needs to be achieved by loosening the structures of our commercial institutions.

Just thinking out loud but I wonder if the concept of experience has become too closely elided with the narrower experience gained by 'timeserving'. Then again, at board level this does not seem to be the case as board members move between companies easily it seems.

I still wonder about the value of experienced female input in product choice.

Babycham1979 Wed 05-Aug-15 10:35:12

Unfortunately though, we all reap the benefits of the advanced economy. Whenever I hear people waxing lyrical about an idyllic world of part-time and flexible work for all, I imagine a world without the internet, jet-flight, pharmaceuticals etc etc etc. Only by virtue of the long hours and obsessive work of a few, talented people, do we have these things. Without the competition, drive, focus and destructive workaholism(?) of some sections of society, we'd still be living in mud huts and painting ourselves blue.

I quite like the idea of a peasant-utopia, but I don't think it would be much fun in reality.

The difficult truth is that the workplace can never feasibly fully change itself around some people's desire for flexibility. For individuals, and society, to progress, people have to work hard, regardless of sex. Sad but true.

alicatte Wed 05-Aug-15 11:14:44

I am not sure Babycham, as you say change is ubiquitous and constant. Hard work is how this is achieved. I still think more inclusion would confer a commercial advantage.

Cabrinha Wed 05-Aug-15 11:56:43

I do think there are barriers to women progressing to high levels.
But I think we also have to be aware of the choices that we personally make.

I don't want to out myself, so some details changed... I work for a big company. Excellent opportunities. I took a year off for mat leave after 12 years there, came back PT and am now FT again. It slowed down my profession (at least by that one year) but has not hampered it. I have seen other women come back from mat leave INTO promotions. I think it's a great company. I have quite flexible working, relatively - I travel a LOT, but if not travelling, 50% of my time I'm at home working and can do school run, pop up for sports day without asking permission, etc. It's great. (although the time away travelling impacts my life a lot, so don't be too jealous!)

But - I'm divorced, live nowhere near the offices. Because I moved when I my child's father. To progress now, I would have to move. Nothing is stopping me from being a weekend mother. Nothing. Only me. It's not what I want. I don't even feel that's society's expectations on me. I just don't want it.

So I have chosen my child over my career. I could leave, find a local job, progress there... I have lots of reasons not to. So I don't ask for sympathy!

I'm just pointing out, that my lack of career progression currently is entirely my choice.

On average, would more women make my choice?

I certainly can say that within my organisation, there are far more men doing the 'working away in the week' thing, than women.

Cabrinha Wed 05-Aug-15 12:00:33

I'm still not convinced about female board members for better products. For better balance companies, yes.

But when it comes to understand markets and finding new ones, these male dominated board companies do OK. They're sharp. I suppose if you found the CEO of a sports equipment company - s/he can't play every sport. But - the focus groups you mention, in depth research - which may be provided by a female CEO led marketing company! - other females lower down on brand teams...

I don't think women are needed at the top to produce a better product. But they may be needed at the top to produce the same good product more profitability, or to drive greater market penetration of it!

alicatte Wed 05-Aug-15 12:42:23

I too chose my child over my career Cabrinha. But what I found, even after I changed career to something more in tune with juggling, was that I was still focussed at home. Like you I am not blaming anyone but myself and I would make the same choice again even knowing what I know now.

But I still wonder if, as you say, the voices of experienced women might drive the marketing more effectively - especially if the money is being directed by women. I just wonder if the directors of companies were as often female as male, would that balance confer a more commercially advantageous choice of product for the company. These things are subtle and you bring yourself and your experience to the table when you decide what to develop or choose. I was pretty high up in my previous profession before I made my changes. I don't regret it, I needed to be close to home and my focus shifted. I also began to notice my community more and it was a paradigm shift for me.

I do agree with your point about fairness.

Spartans Wed 05-Aug-15 14:54:22

But you are saying that women would create better products, because they are women?

They would create different products, because they are a different person. Not assured to be better though.

My career didn't suffer as a result of having kids. Because I remained working, then set up my own business. I was lucky that dh could work around me for childcare reasons. So there didn't have to be a choice between my kids or my work. One of us could always be at home.

If numbers of sahd rise, I think we will see more women in board rooms and pay gap decreasing across the genders. But that's a big if. Perceptions need to change.

alicatte Wed 05-Aug-15 15:39:09

Not better really
Just different perhaps more in tune with the market, if it is truly predominantly female.
It seems to me that a lot of experience is being wasted and I am shocked that women are so under represented in any but SMB boardrooms.
I also feel for those men who are on the treadmill. Change is always possible. After all it was once said that industry would grind to a halt if there was a two day rather than one day weekend.

Cabrinha Wed 05-Aug-15 16:02:09

I think you risk seeing women as a homogenous mass there though.
There are some men who will be more in tune with my needs as a PERSON than some women.

If I take the obvious product of Tampax! I hate hit. I have NO idea why a product that doesn't expand width ways is a market leader. Just don't get it. They fall out of me blush - even as a teen, before anyone questions my post baby pelvic floor grin

Obviously, my majority of women do not agree with me. A male board member is just as capable as a female one to commission and interpret results that suggest there is a place on the market for Lillets too.

I'm picking a really simple example. But I think generally, woman are not more in tune with what women want. Every company needs research for that, and any gender can manage the gathering of that research.

Caryam Wed 05-Aug-15 16:20:28

There was some research I read that said Companies with more female Board members, performed better than those without.
I am amazed at some of the advertising to women which is patronising and sexist. Maybe if more women were involved this would happen less? It certainly can't help their sales figures.

alicatte Wed 05-Aug-15 16:42:00

I think fine details such as the tampax problem you mention are easy to notice. But to use the same analogy, the plastic tampax holders were poorly received because they were plastic and pink. An experienced woman would have enough knowledge in the area to understand that the unnatural yuckiness and disposal difficulties of these would outweigh any hygiene issues for most women. The cardboard was easy to use and easy to handle and insert. I am not questioning that any gender can run a focus group. I just wonder whether a body of experience built over years might be useful in building a more appropriate world and interpreting that research - boards choose the way to go forward after all.

Caryam, I agree there is some incomprehensible marketing which seems to concentrate on making women feel bad. Indeed there are some rather good comedy sketches about it - I'm remembering that Mitchell and Webb one which ends 'men, shave and get drunk - you 're great!' (I'm paraphrasing there)
Crikey there is a lot more when you start to think about it.

Spartans Wed 05-Aug-15 18:02:54

Not better really Just different perhaps more in tune with the market, if it is truly predominantly female.

But any companies products would be different if they had anyone different coming up with them. Why assume a woman in a board room would be able to produce a more 'female' friendly product. We are all hugly different. These peoples jobs are to make and sell products. To anyone. They may have different target groups for different products.

Fwiw I think advertising can also be sexist and condensing to men. It really depends on what the ad is aiming for. The proctor and gamble celebrating mums was ridiculous.

For the tampax example a female focus group would be held many times before a product goes to market.

Spartans Wed 05-Aug-15 18:08:09

For example I love the gym and train 7 times per week.

I hate pink, light kettle bells that they make for women. They are usually badly shaped and so light they make no difference at all. But lots of women think they are doing some good, they are so light....they are doing anything.

But some women love them. Again one of the first companies that made them led 6 female focus groups. Where they recieved a great reception. Designed by a team led by a man.

To me they are badly designed product. They tell you the benefits of kettle bells which in fact you won't get with the kettle bell they sold you. But they sell very well.

I would have come up with a different product. Which probably wouldn't have sold as well.

YeOldeTrout Wed 05-Aug-15 18:17:14

Maybe the status quo works because we're all 100% human beings?

hiddenhome Wed 05-Aug-15 20:04:52

I often buy products and then spot something wrong and think "yeah, designed by a man" hmm just not thought through properly and designed by a man person who doesn't actually use the damn thing day in, day out.

Also, also why is everything for women fucking pink? I hate pink. It's infantile and gives me the rage.

There should be more women designers.

alicatte Wed 05-Aug-15 20:14:55

There really is a lot to think about!

alicatte Wed 05-Aug-15 20:17:46

Agree about pink.
I prefer blue like the olden days - the colour of the Virgin Mary

So much is just arbitrary!

YeOldeTrout Wed 05-Aug-15 20:20:51

(Other than niche product pink Kettle Bells) Can somebody please give more examples of products that were badly designed by men but mostly bought by women?

hiddenhome Wed 05-Aug-15 22:32:30

Ironing boards. They could be better designed. The trays to rest the irons in are usually inadequate and at the wrong angle, so the steam still discharges whilst you're arranging the thing you're trying to iron. Also, the cord always gets tangled up.

No clever comments about being a loser if you iron. I have to iron my work uniform and the kids school uniforms.

hiddenhome Wed 05-Aug-15 22:37:39

Oh, and fanny pads. They're often perfumed and made from weird, sticky material. The night time ones aren't long enough either.

Speculums. They hurt and pinch. Surely, they could have designed something nicer by now hmm

Contraception. Most of it sucks. It's either unreliable or makes us fat or crazy, or both if you're unlucky.

Women's trousers and jeans are just straight up and down so you end up with them either falling down or they give you a muffin top. Women are usually curved and it would be nice to have trews that fit the old shape. We're not all skinny 18 years olds.

OneFlewOverTheDodosNest Wed 05-Aug-15 22:48:03

For me it's less about "women make better products" as it is "women tend to have different experiences and so add breadth to a company". If the figures were reversed I'd think more men would be beneficial.

When you only have a homogenous group of people designing anything they don't realise their own limitations - the classic example is Apple creating the female Siri who couldn't understand women's voices because they'd never thought to test it... They did at least realise their mistake there!

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