Cents and Sensibility

Who Wants To Join Me in a Girl Power Moment?

Becky Quick, noted financial columnist and host of CNBC’s “Squawk Box,” published a fascinating, but unfortunate article in the February 27, 2012 issue of Fortune. She recounts how she went to purchase a car; and despite clearly outlining that it would be her vehicle purchased with her funds, the salesman directed all of his attention to her husband. She relates a similar anecdote about former chair(wo)man and CEO of Xerox, Anne Mulcahy, who decided to reward herself for all of her hard work with a new Porsche. When she asked for the paperwork, the salesman paused and asked, “Don’t you have to talk to someone about that first?”

March is Women’s History Month. It is a time to look back at women’s accomplishments and how far society has come in accepting gender equality. But sometimes when I see how women are valued as consumers or portrayed in advertising, I can’t help but feel that the more things change, the more they stay the same. And there is no reason why businesses should maintain these sexist attitudes. For one, it’s just archaic. Secondly, it’s bad for business – women have more buying power than ever.

The Daily Beast reports that during the recession, men lost more jobs while women started more companies. And while there is still a pay gap between the sexes, it is decreasing. And according to an article in Time, women have received more degrees than their male counterparts. They also hold half of all non-farm jobs in the country and own one-third of companies. In 47 of the 50 largest U.S. metropolitan areas, childless women in their 20s are making more money than their male peers. And we are spending that money, too – women are responsible for 58% of online retail purchases, 80% of healthcare decisions, and 45% of electronics purchases. I am proud to count myself among the 44% of NFL fans who are female. And I’ve purchased several items of Chicago Bears gear to prove it.

But somehow, despite women’s growing contributions to the economy, some companies are still stupid enough to put out commercials like this.

Maybe it’s just me, but I feel like it’s a bad idea to discourage an entire gender from buying your unisex product.

It’s unfortunate that we still have a long way to go before women are truly considered socioeconomic equals to their male counterparts. But women have come a long way from the days of not being able to own property, apply for credit or live off of the fruits of their own labor. From the looks of it, we are only getting stronger. I feel like it is only a matter of time before businesses and advertisers realize that we are a force to be reckoned with.

Until that day comes, feel free to shut down chauvinistic salesmen or any other company whose message is an affront to your identity as a woman. I am sure they will learn their mistake once you take your cash elsewhere. Relish your accomplishments and realize how smart, talented, enterprising and independent we are. We should be proud of ourselves.

And if you ever forget that fact, let some old school Destiny’s Child save the day.

Image by FanPop