As a marketer, I appreciate when creativity meets great insights and data to deliver an approach that achieves its objectives. As a woman, I also especially love seeing these kinds of successful activities share commentary on the way our world interacts with women, or shed essential light on how much of our world was designed without women in mind.
From Ariel’s powerful #ShareTheLoad engagement to Barbie telling us ‘You Can Be Anything’, there are some fantastic examples of brands actively shifting the conversation to include women, and expand on their contributions to the world we live in. But it’s not just about recognising changing times or joining a social impact drive, it’s about much more than that.
There is a clear business rationale for brands that adapt their business strategies to include women by design.
By incorporating the diverse perspectives that women bring, championing female role models as ambassadors, designing fit-for-purpose products that meet women’s needs, and creating content that encourages women to pursue their passions, brands can effectively tap into the spending power and influence of women. Take sportswear apparel for example.
We took note when principal ballerina Misty Copeland gracefully danced in athletic Under Armour gear to the legend of ‘I Will What I Want’. Likewise, we were mesmerised when Nike featured Emirati figure skater Zahra Lari spinning on ice in her hijab. These were followed by more prominent and provocative content that put women at the centre of the conversation, and it was clear that the industry had woken up to the business growth opportunity that exists when we incorporate the true – not imagined – perspectives of women.
By drawing attention to the strength, unique shapes, and differentiated athleticism of women, through showcasing real role models in better designed active-wear clothing, the women’s sports apparel industry has done just that – tapped into a significant consumer base: women. How significant? According to UBS, women are key drivers of consumer decisions, with about 85% of women managing day-to-day expenses.
Now, when we design products, services, experiences and solutions for women, we need to envision them through the viewpoints of women.
In terms of experiences, who is to say that only boys see themselves walking the stadium with global football legends at the UEFA Champions League final? This is exactly the ‘priceless surprise’ that Mastercard arranged last year for 10-year-old Basmah Nawaf Alshnaifi – a girl with a passion for football, who became the UCL’s first female Saudi mascot.
When it comes to products and services, are we meeting the actual needs of women? Do we have insights that can help us incorporate women’s experiences into the design and innovation process? We must consider the functionality and practicalities of women’s interaction. In short, we have to help design and develop a world with both women and men in mind.
To do this, we need women to be part of the design and innovation process, especially in this age of the Fourth Industrial Revolution. And to do that, we need to inspire young girls to consider and pursue a career in STEM, through initiatives like Girls4Tech. As part of this programme, Mastercard has committed to reaching one million girls globally by 2025, including 2,020 in the UAE alone by the end of Expo 2020 Dubai.
So, what exactly is the value of a world that includes women by design?
In addition to the humanitarian benefits, it’s a considerable amount. In the Middle East and North Africa, the loss in global wealth from gender inequality is estimated at $3.1trn. With the UAE’s MIWE Women Business Owner rate at only 7.7%, there’s great scope for growth in the region, and huge opportunities for finance.
Global management consulting firm Oliver Wyman agrees. It estimates a global revenue opportunity of $700bn is currently being left on the table by the financial services industry not fully meeting the needs of women consumers.
Think of the increased speed in which we can close the gender gap in terms of financial inclusion if we design better, more helpful digital financial products for women.
As a payment technology leader with global insights, Mastercard has invested significantly in understanding women’s financial priorities, and mapping out those priorities across different life stages. After all, a specific position in time often influences our need for specialised support and ingenious innovations – in sportswear as much as financial solutions.
The necessity for women to have control over finances is a recurring theme, and Mastercard’s Women by Design Insights and Product Development Framework revealed over 63% of women are looking for ways to simplify their lives. But how does this translate into the way they transact? Women in the Middle East are still less confident than men in using the internet to access financial services, and although 8% of women in the UAE have used digital wallets as a payment method, the number still lags men’s usage at 14%.
By making a conscious decision to integrate women’s perspectives into our business, marketing and innovation strategies, more women will benefit from solutions specifically designed for their needs. More companies will see revenues climb. More societies will experience elevated productivity. More economies will grow and thrive.
After all, a world that works better for women creates limitless possibilities for us all.
Beatrice Cornacchia: Senior Vice President, Head of Marketing & Communications, Middle East & Africa at Mastercard