"The earning power of women globally is expected to reach $18 trillion by 2014 [...] That is more than twice the estimated 2014 GDP of China and India combined." The story of the current recession is definitely about women.
CNN asks if women are "saviors of the world's economy," noting increasing earning and spending power:
For companies, the growing economic power of women would seem an obvious market to capture. But according to a global study by the Boston Consulting Group, women feel at best underserved by companies, and at worst ignored.
"The current way companies appeal to women is to take a male product and paint it pink," said Michael Silverstein, a partner at BCG and coauthor of "Women Want More," a book based on the study results.
Shrink it and pink it strikes again! However, the most out of touch industry is also the industry that would most want to take advantage of women's new found wealth:
For women, the worst offender is the financial services industry. The BCG survey of 12,000 women in 40 regions around the world found that financial services — such as providing ibanking, investment and insurance products and advice — are worst at connecting with female consumers.
In doing so, the industries risk alienating the greatest growing spending bloc on the planet, Silverstein argues. Whether in the workforce or not, women are increasingly the drivers of consumer spending. Women globally control $20 trillion in annual consumer spending; by 2014 that could climb to $28 trillion.
The article also discusses trends in China:
The economic story of burgeoning economies such as China is also the story of "factory girls," young women who have found new spending power as a result of new economic opportunities. Despite the financial crisis, domestic spending in the first nine months of this year was up 15 percent, driven in large part by women under the age of 35, said Shaun Rein, managing director of China Market Research Group.
"Women are starting to make as much, if not more, than men, especially in third and fourth-tier cities," Rein said.
Interestingly, the factory girls phenomenon doesn't just discuss changes in the workplace and in domestic spending. It also represents the changing ideas about a woman's worth, particularly in rural areas of China.
In the Women's Review of Books, Xujun Eberlein reviews Leslie T. Chang's Factory Girls:
In an intimate, nonjudgmental voice, Leslie T. Chang's refreshingly rendered Factory Girls opens up the fascinating and gritty world of female migrant workers. While many of the young women find economic improvement, their rudderless lives raise the question of whether this new migration is a progression or regression in Chinese women's emancipation.
Before the free-market economic reforms, China's urban women largely enjoyed equal status in society and the family. This was because, for various political and economic reasons, the Chinese Communist Party (CCP) strongly promoted woman's equality, albeit within the larger frame of collectivism, in which individuals were cast as part of a social machine. Meanwhile, in the countryside, the traditional patriarchal system maintained its grip. In the village I was sent to in the 1970s, girls were regarded as nothing but dowry-debt. The birth of a baby girl always made her parents miserable. In one instance, a poor young mother tried to stage a "falling-off-the-cliff accident" to get rid of her infant girl; fortunately the baby survived. Only one young woman in the village had a middle-school diploma; most had not gone beyond the second grade because they were needed for work. Few showed any interest in education.
This kind of sex discrimination in rural areas has a long history; it is not the result of the one-child policy as some Westerners believe. In fact, the policy was not implemented until 1979, after I had left the village, and even then, the enforcement of the policy was often lax in the countryside, as reflected in Factory Girls.
Some of the major shifts in power dynamics were explored through the story of Min, a migrant worker who had recently gotten a factory job and started contributing to the family:
Not education, but money changes Min's status in her family. Two years after going out, Min lands a high paying job. She is able to send back big money and expensive gifts. Her relationship with her parents changes:
Min was able to dictate family affairs from afar. She monitored her father's purchases and rejected his business plans, and the fact that she had sent home $1,300 gave her such authority.
What the government was unable to do in the twentieth century, money may do in the twenty-first. While Chang never heard a single person express anything like a feminist sentiment, one can reasonably guess that the role of young women in the migration may eventually eliminate rural discrimination against girls and women.
Reading through these articles, I wonder how much can be achieved by removing women's dependence on men, either financially or through societal mandate. How much has capitalism helped women seeking equality, and how often has capitalism hindered women's advancement?