The gender data gap is the lack of data on women and their experiences, leading to an incomplete understanding of their needs, preferences, and behaviours. This data gap is prevalent in various fields, including consumer goods marketing, where women’s voices and perspectives are underrepresented, and their buying power, overlooked.
Redressing the gender data gap is crucial for fostering more inclusive and effective marketing strategies, promoting gender equality, and unlocking the untapped potential of a significant consumer demographic.
Join us as we explore the transformative power of accurate representation and inclusive research. Together, we can create marketing strategies that resonate with all consumers, for a more equitable and prosperous future for South Africa.
Mind the (Gender Data) Gap
From cars that are 71% less safe for women (because they’ve been designed using a male dummy), to voice-recognition technology that is 70% less likely to understand women (because algorithms are trained on 70% male data sets), to medication that doesn’t work when a woman is on her period (because women weren’t included in clinical trials), we are living in a world designed for men because we haven’t been collecting data on women. This is the gender data gap.
And it’s real. While the World Health Organisation recognises the need for sex-disaggregated data to improve people’s lives, it was only in 2019 that their Global Health Statistics were disaggregated by sex. And, although the United Nations Women’s global gender data programme, Women Count, has been supporting efforts since 2016, the UN estimates that it will take 22 years to close the gender gap in big data.
“But close it we must”, says Caroline Criado Perez, author of Invisible Women: Exposing Data Bias in a World Designed for Men, 2019’s McKinsey Business Book of the Year. “Especially if we want to design a world that works for the woman of the future as well as it works for the men of today. Closing this data gap is both easy and hard. It’s easy because it has a very simple solution: collect sex-disaggregated data. But it’s hard because the gender data gap is not the product of a conspiracy by misogynistic data scientists. It is simply the result of an everyday bias that affects pretty much all of us: when we say human, 9 times out of 10, we mean men”.
The gender data gap can have dire consequences for consumer goods and services marketers who fail to consider the varied roles of women as shoppers. Women make up a significant portion of the consumer market, and their purchasing power continues to grow. Ignoring the gender data gap means disregarding a massive market opportunity.
Women hold the Purchasing Power
Nielsen reports that 71% of South Africa’s women are responsible for grocery shopping, with 60% as the primary purchaser in the household. But women’s buying behaviour is informed by responsibilities and constraints that don’t affect their male counterparts:
Women still earn less than men and shoulder more of the household responsibilities. According to the World Economic Forum’s (WEF) Global Gender Gap Report for 2022, South African women earn between 23% and 35% less than men doing the same job. For the more than two-fifths (42,1%) of households headed by women, the burden of responsibility and the impact of the pay gap is even greater.
It’s no wonder that BrandMapp found that an overwhelming majority of women are sales and discount-conscious.
This is a simple example of how sex-disaggregated data can inform shopper marketing strategies – in particular the use of promotions – to appeal to the market segment that holds the purse strings.
How the Gender Data Gap Affects Consumer Goods and Services Brands:
Brands that fail to recognise and address the unique needs of women risk losing out on substantial revenue streams and market share:
Limited Insight into Women's Preferences and Needs:
The gender data gap prevents marketers from gaining comprehensive insights into the preferences, needs, and aspirations of women as shoppers and consumers. Without this crucial information, brands miss opportunities to tailor their products, services and messaging, ultimately leading to missed sales and an inability to build strong, lasting consumer connections.
Reinforcing Gender Stereotypes:
When marketing decisions are made based on incomplete or biased data, there’s a risk of perpetuating harmful gender stereotypes. By relying on outdated assumptions, marketers inadvertently reinforce gender norms, limiting the potential for gender equality in society. Redressing the gender data gap is essential in challenging these stereotypes and promoting a more progressive and inclusive marketing landscape.
Missed Opportunities for Innovation:
Understanding consumers fully is a critical driver of innovation. Without accurate data on women’s preferences and behaviours, brands miss out on opportunities to create groundbreaking products and services that cater to the unique needs of female consumers. Bridging the gender data gap can unlock a wealth of creative ideas that resonate with a diverse customer base.
How Brands can Close the Gap to Unlock Market Share and Sales:
Given the considerable influence and economic power of women in South Africa, it is essential for marketers to understand their preferences, needs, and aspirations better. By bridging the gender data gap and employing inclusive marketing strategies, brands can tap into this powerful consumer base and build lasting connections. Empowering women through tailored products, messaging, and representation not only fosters brand loyalty but contributes to a more equitable and prosperous society, overall.
Key to getting this right is using sex-disaggregated data to better understand and segment audiences according to their needs. From there, brands must align with product innovation and marketing teams to ensure tailored messaging, shopper journeys and solutions that meet segmented consumer needs.
Easier said than done. But consider this as a starting point:
1. Identify your customer(s).
a) Make distinctions between the consumer and the shopper.
b) Segment your audience.
2. Define your customer’s needs as they relate to your product.
a) Consider their very real needs as they extend beyond product benefits (like convenience for busy moms, or value for constrained consumers).
3. Plot the buyer journey.
a) Identify channels for awareness, consideration, and purchase.
b) Identify triggers for buying.
4. Overlay your consumer’s needs onto the buyer journey.
a) Do they align?
b) Make sure you are showing up at all touchpoints.
5. Design strategic and tactical activations along the buyer journey.
a) Showcase how you meet your customers’ needs as they evolve throughout the buyer journey.
6. Measure and test!
a) Track performance and disaggregated consumer data to test your assumptions about customers and buyer journeys.
7. Optimise and improve.
a) Take the learnings from campaign data and feedback into your overall strategy for continual improvement.
This means a taking a data-led, consumer-centric approach to branding. Often the first step is making sure your partners are aligned with this approach right from the outset and integrated into the brand’s strategy at large.
Tradeway is a below-the-line marketing agency that helps brands break through crowded consumer markets with tailor-made, data-led shopper marketing solutions. We’ve helped the world’s leading consumer goods and services brands build lasting, valuable connections with South African consumers since 2005.
South Africa is a nation of incredible diversity, with a rich tapestry of cultures, traditions, and perspectives. Yet, in the quest for equality, we face an alarming gap in data insights when coming to women. The gender data gap in consumer goods and services marketing not only affects brands’ ability to reach full potential but has broader implications for gender equality and social progress. As marketers, it is our responsibility to recognise the immense potential that lies untapped within this segment and to foster a more inclusive, representative, and prosperous market landscape for everyone.
At Tradeway, our mission is to foster connection and compassion between people, and to convert that connection into tangible value with the power to transform our people, our customers and community. Our vision is for equal access to opportunity and information for all. Opportunity for consumers to experience brands, for brands to maximise impact, for our people to flourish, and for our communities to thrive.
We do this through tailor-made, data-led shopper marketing solutions that include
Digital & Mobile: Amplify reach and collect first-party data and shopper insights.
Field Services: Deepen engagement with Human-to-Human connection.
Our passion for equal opportunity is evident in our team make up that is 75% female, with 88% of top management positions held by women. Partner with us for strategic solutions tailored to your target customers and that result in actionable market insights for a more comprehensive and inclusive brand presence.
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