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Researching the Women's Market - What They Leave Out

Invisible_woman_poster_041242919350 Raise your hand if you: a. are over 50. b. are happily single; c. weren't born a female; d. aren't a mother; e. aren't heterosexual; f. some combo of a-e. Oops! You're invisible (right along with me and most of my friends.)

By Guest Blogger, Mary Schmidt, Marketing Troubleshooter

I've designed and conducted quite a bit of market research and analysis over the past three decades.  And, here's an inherent problem with any kind of research: no matter how objective you want to be - you tend to skew research to fit your world view and interpret any findings via that same view. (Eating a lot of butter has to be bad for you, right? I mean, it's so fat...;-) 

That's why The Shriver Report, A Woman's Nation Changes Everything ended up being more about Mommies than women...and telling us things that many have known for years (However, I was taken aback to find out the battle of the sexes is over. ?! Really? Does Lilly Ledbetter agree?)  

Granted, I've not read the whole thing, but overall, it's way skewed toward women with children.  As Melanie Notkin noted, (listen to her podcast with Yvonne here), might as well be called A Mother's Nation Changes Everything....

Nearly 50% of American women are actually not mothers. Which does not mean they never will be. But today, 45.1% of American women through the age 44 do not have children. This US Census data does not account for the women 45 and over, so we estimate that nearly 50% of women are not moms.

Then there's this from the report's executive summary, "Shriver connects this overarching social shift to the most consistent roles of her life and of most women’s lives—the roles of daughter and mother." 

See? We're back at the traditional roles of women.  And while most of us are daughters (some of us started out as throw another spanner in the research work), about 50% of us aren't mothers.  (Many never wanted to be.  I'm like the New Yorker cartoon showing a couple admiring another couple's child, with the caption, "It's so cute! What do you do with it?" Or, as an older friend once admitted, "If I had it to do over, I wouldn't have children, but that's what we did back then.")

And, while I'm all for celebrities stepping up to help other women - they are also viewing "our shared challenges" through a prism of privilege (See above about the battle of the sexes being over.  Sure, if you're already a CEO or mega-star married to a mega-millionaire, you're probably not doing much battling for status or money...)

Lots of (real and virtual) group hugging and Kumbaya singing ensues...real change not so much. After the klieg lights are turned off and the conference floor is emptied...the stars go back to their mansions and personal assistants and the rest of us go back to real life.  Further, the women who could really use some help right now can't afford to go to conferences and don't have time to read feel-good texts. The "working Mom" may be digging in the sofa cushions for school lunch money, so she's probably not going to buy anything from Shriver's Women's Conference online store.   And even if she did - she probably can't wear the "empowered' t-shirt to her minimum wage job. (Oh, sure - startling revelation from the report - we've got more women in the workforce [whoopee? progress?]...still working for far less than men in many cases.) 

Now, don't get me wrong - I'm all for anything that raises people's awareness of existing conditions. However, sadly, many of the people who most need to be woken up avoid it at all costs. So, to a certain extent, we're all singing Kumbaya to the choir when we talk about "women's issues."  And, in fact, many turn off completely when they hear the words.  Personally, I'm sick of of the victim speak that pervades so much of the discussion of "women's issues."  

However, I didn't glean any startling new info from the report (But then as another women blogger noted, "we live it.") And, I wouldn't base any "marketing to women" strategy on it, either.

Read More: 

Linda Lowen: The Shriver Report - A "Woman's Nation" Still Has Far To Go

Gail Collins' Forbes interview re her new book, "When Everything Changed." (Which I can't wait to read.) Note her response re Hillary Clinton and Palin (They're not victims of sexism, btw.)


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