International Women's Day has passed, but we still have the importance of women - as consumers and catalysts for development - on our minds. And we're not the only ones. Deloitte Touche Tohmatsu recently reported that women currently control nearly $12 trillion, or two-thirds, of the $18 trillion total global consumer spending. Additionally, women's earned incomes are growing faster than men's in developing countries, at 8.1 percent compared 5.8 percent. These figures underscore the important role women have in household purchase decisions and provide evidence of women's increasing buying power.
While women are emerging as a more powerful force in the global economy, their role in development is well established. Empowering women with education and economic opportunities can have a compounding effect on broad-based social and economic development. Women reinvest the vast majority of their income in their families and communities. And an extra year of secondary schooling increases women's earning potential by 10 to 20 percent. For these and other reasons, members of the development community, including microfinance institutions and several major international organizations, have a strong focus on women.
Women make up half of the population in emerging markets, yet they are often overlooked by multinational corporations. A study sponsored by the GSMA Development Fund and Cherie Blair Foundation, and authored Vital Wave Consulting, found that women are 21% less likely to own a mobile phone than a man in the developing world. Closing the mobile phone "gender gap” is worth $13 billion annually to mobile communications service providers. Additionally, the mobile phone provides a host of social and economic benefits to women.* There's an opportunity for companies to recognize the increasing influence of women as customers, purchase influencers and broader agents of development. Those that do -- and provide products and services that are closely linked to the needs of a woman and her family -- can tap into this emerging consumer base and help improve their bottom line as well as the quality of life of families across the globe.
*Join Vital Wave Consulting's next Speaker Series on Thursday, March 25, 2010 where Dr. Karen Coppock will present the results of Women and Mobile: A Global Opportunity, the first comprehensive study of mobile phones and women in the developing world. Details and Registration.