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Women feel undervalued, underserved, study finds

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Here are six industries that have the most potential for change

Despite the vast strides women have made in economic and corporate power in recent decades, a new study finds they still feel undervalued when it comes to making purchases. “It’s still tough for women to find a pair of pants, buy a healthful meal, get financial advice without feeling patronized,” Boston Consulting Group’s Michael Silverstein and Kate Sayre, who conducted the global survey of more than 12,000 women, report in Harvard Business Review.

They found six industries with the greatest potential for targetting women


This is the industry least sympathetic to women, according to the survey, and the one in which companies have the most to gain if they can change their approach. Women feel that the industry lacks respect, and then cite other complaints that they might well share with men, such as poor advice, contradictory policies, one-size-fits-all forms, and red tape. There’s a big opportunity for companies that can provide financial education to women, financial advisers that understand and cater to female life events, and equal treatment with men.


Women are fundamentally dissatisfied with beauty offerings – what is being offered and the fact too many choices exist. “It’s a male-dominated industry in which men make hit-or-miss guesses about what women want, and products come and go at a rapid pace,” they write.

A good first step would be to put more women at the top in the industry, so they can make key decisions that reflect their sense of what resonates with female consumers.


Women remain responsible for the lion’s share of grocery shopping and meal preparation. This is an area where they can be convinced to trade up, buying some luxury goods instead of their low-cost counterparts, if the appeal is strong enough. That’s why, the consultants note, Whole Foods has succeeded despite its high prices, targeting well-to-do “fast trackers” – higher-earning, highly educated women. But convenience can also be a big appeal to time-strapped women (the consultants call them “pressure cookers”) who are married with children and are under tremendous time pressures.


About two-thirds of the survey respondents consider themselves overweight, but although they say fitness is a priority, in reality it’s on the back burner because the women are putting more emphasis on their children, spouse or parents than their own health.

The consultants say the challenge is to make fitness more acceptable for women, with fitness centres, which are usually designed for men, less like a nightclub filled with bodybuilders. “Generally, women are less interested in pumping themselves up than in shedding a few pounds, improving their cardiovascular health, and getting toned. Bright lights, electronic music, sweaty men, and complicated equipment are often a turnoff,” they write.


Most women are not a perfect size six, the consultants note, and don’t like to be reminded of that fact every time they shop. For most women, trying on clothes is often an exercise in frustration that just reinforces their negative body images. The consultants point to Banana Republic, which has won a loyal following among women by taking steps to solve the problem of fit, particularly for pants.

Cost is also an issue, and the reason Sweden-based H&M is drawing plaudits for its inexpensive, trendy clothes.


Women reported dissatisfaction with their hospitals and their physicians (which in Canada we don’t usually view as an industry in the same way as other countries do). Female respondents were irritated by the time spent waiting for doctors and lab results, and generally pay more for health insurance than men. Again, the consultants see opportunities for health providers that cater to women.

CTVglobemedia Publishing, Inc

© CTVglobemedia Publishing Inc. All Rights Reserved.. Displayed by permission. All rights reserved.

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