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The Female Quotient

Women are causing a financial boom. What’s fueling the “Sheconomy”?

Published 18 October 2023 in The Female Quotient • 6 min read

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2023 is the year the Sheconomy, a term coined in 2007, came into its own. By understanding what’s been feeding it, leaders can keep the fire burning. After all, it’ll only be good for business.

In the United States alone, women have had an economic impact in 2023 totaling $8.95 billion. This unprecedented statistic has led to headlines that we are experiencing the year that women changed the equation in terms of their economic value.

“When it comes to incremental impact, women have caused a 0.5% GDP “bump” in US GDP – more revenue than the 2008 Olympics,” says Julie Yufe, SVP Vodka & Rum at Diageo.

By 2028, women will account for 75% of all discretionary spending; that is, expenses such as dining out, hobbies, travel, and personal care. That’s why journalist Brittany Jones-Cooper is already calling it “the great wealth transfer”, saying she is convinced that “women are going to be holding the purse strings in 20 to 30 years.” 

Further data says that women are now either earning more or making the same as their husbands in nearly half of marriages. That’s the day-to-day reality, while on a macro level the hugely successful Barbie movie, Taylor Swift and Beyoncé’s summer tours, plus a huge elevation in the status of women in sport have been making huge contributions.

What lies beneath the surface of this record-breaking situation, and what are some of the opportunities still waiting to have a spark thrown at them?

Being consistent, and being intentional

Brands that have made a concerted effort year in, year out to be consistent in their investments in women are now reaping the benefits.

“Our Johnnie Walker brand has continued investing in women entrepreneurs and particularly in women’s sports,” says Yufe. She explains they have constantly had to fight off questions as to why, given there was not as much interest, visibility, or sponsorship in these areas at the time. But “consumers have voted with dollars”.

equal pay
Further data says that women are now either earning more or making the same as their husbands in nearly half of marriages

“Women sports fans are more loyal. They remember brands more when they support a women’s sport. The money is now behind the sports – the leagues – and we are seeing massive spikes of interest in women athletes as a consequence of concerted efforts and focus on what women actually care about,” she adds.

“We have put our money and our behavior where our intention is. And behavior change is hard; it requires doing things over and over again to build muscle memory.”

Linda Bethea, Chief Marketing Officer at Danone North America, says she views it as her duty as someone in a position of privilege and power to help others and to lead with that intentionality. It is an attitude in harmony with internal policies at her firm.

“At Danone, we have a ‘see something, do something, say something’ policy. I recently spoke up about a requirement to leave for a company retreat on a Sunday which interfered with my custody plans as a single mother. This hadn’t even occurred to whoever made that decision.”

Whoever you are, she says, if someone in the company decides something that doesn’t work for you, speak up. This evokes change.

Externally, too, the marketing world practices intent in the way it portrays women; it is trying to “flip the script”, as Bethea puts it. Danone’s Light + Fit yoghurt flew in the face of women being told they should crave less or be less (less emotional, less direct, and so on).

“We want women to show up and be who they are unapologetically. So, we show a CEO negotiating a deal; she wants it all and she gets it all – she has her yogurt and makes millions too!”

The democratization of financial advice

Women’s economic empowerment has been facilitated by female creators making financial advice accessible and spreading the message that women can both earn and spend well. 

Helping to eliminate shame around personal finances and to replace it witha conviction to take financial control over your life, Haley Sacks is a Zillenial finance expert who built the @MrsDowJones brand on social media. One of the first ever financial influencers, she also founded Finance is Cool, a media company and educational platform. 

Women are advised to have a transparent relationship with money. The Mint app allows you to see your budget. Only this can change your relationship with money

She takes a fun approach, and imparts advice such as:  

  • Financially speaking, “average” is good; have reckless fun (go buy handbags in Japan) but with 5% of your money. 
  • Ask yourself: what is your biggest financial secret? Not looking at your credit card or bank statement is a common one (many women don’t know what is going on in their personal finances). Have a money date with yourself on the last day of every month. Return packages and set goals for the next month;. 
  • Having financial transparency in your friendship group is one of the biggest gifts you can give each other. 

Sacks saw a gap in the market: “Baby boomers suck at financial advice and millennials therefore suffer from bad or no advice.” The omniscience of social media, and especially platforms like Instagram and TikTok is facilitating such creative pursuits aimed and giving women a voice in finance – and giving women in finance a voice. 

Krista Philips, EVP and Head of Consumer Credit Cards and Marketing at Wells Fargo, also strongly advises women to “have a transparent relationship with your money”, adding: “Spending is elevated across the board. We are hoping inflation goes down but meanwhile, be honest with yourself.” 

“Look for a high-yield savings account: don’t have your money sitting there,” adds Jones-Cooper. “Try the Mint app. Just seeing your budget can change your relationship with money.” 

‘Stop fixing the women: fix the system’ 

Too many people are still fearful when they invest in women. A salient example is the fact Black women are the fastest growing group of entrepreneurs, and yet funding is given to less than 1%.

Jones-Cooper believes this is partly due to a fear of ‘But what if they fail? It will be a reflection women cannot do it.’ Women are not failing, she insists, adding, “We do need financial literacy; it’s only mandated in 22 US States and New York isn’t one of them. I find that criminal when we have Wall Street downtown.”

There are further negative attitudes running rampant in society that are slowing down what could be an even faster pace of women’s empowerment: “Let’s stop pitting women against each other in the corporate world,” says Philips.

Shelley Zalis, CEO of The Female Quotient, highlights imposter syndrome’s pervasiveness. But, she says, “We have to stop fixing the women and start fixing the system.” We need an attitude of “conscious leadership”, she adds.

“We don’t say ‘male allies’; we say ‘leadership allies’. It’s about men and women in this together. It’s not about taking power from men to give it to women. We all need to evolve.” 

This article is based on a panel discussion from The Female Quotient’s (FQ) Equality Lounge sessions at Advertising Week New York 2023 which saw some 150 female speakers share stories and debate on myriad topics overlapping with the marketing world and closing the gender gap.IMD is an academic partner of The Female Quotient, which joins forces with companies and leaders to curate experiences, thought leadership, and solutions designed to achieve gender equality in the workplace and beyond. 

Joanne Bradford

Joanne Bradford

Advisor, The Female Quotient

Haley Sacks

Haley Sacks

Zillennial Finance Expert and Founder, Mrs Dow Jones & Finance Is Cool


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