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Education Matters, Especially for Women

Posted on | May 26, 2008 | No Comments

by Fara Warner

Two weeks ago on May 8, I gave a speech on the global power of the purse at the Marketing to Women conference in Chicago. From what I could tell from questions from the audience, discussions afterward and the applause (thank you), it was a success. But what continues to surprise me are the frank discussions I have with women who listened to my speech and then said: I never thought of women and economics that way.

What way? I often ask. The way, they say, in which education, money, and economic independence have made us what we are today. Too often as American women, we take for granted all those foundational elements—education, the right to vote, access to capital, the right to own a business—which have made us powerful consumers, powerful voting blocks, and powerful in the country’s economy. It isn’t until they listen to what is happening to women in other countries that they begin to see the power of what we have in American society today—and that power isn’t just about what we can buy. Indeed it is far more about what we can produce from the education that we receive.

Much of our power as American women comes from our increased access to education. In The New York Times, David Leonhardt writes eloquently about a “diploma’s worth.” For the whole story click here

As he writes, for most of American history, education had been the birthright of men, with male-only colleges dominating for more than a century. But in the 20th century that changed as women began going to college in increasing numbers. Today, in many colleges and universities, the graduating class will be a majority of women. A diploma’s worth to a young women is the access it grants her to a world that is still off limits to women around the globe. But as I noted in my speech, that is changing as women around the world harness the power of education. And in the end, for marketers, increased education both here and around the world does actually ring up to more sales as evidenced by a new study of the country’s wealthiest consumers.

According to the Luxury Institute, women are in charge of most buying decisions in wealthy households, defined as those with income of $150,000 or more. Married women in these household make two-thirds, or 64 percent, of the family purchase decisions. They make critical decisions on travel and home appliances.

Women in these households also make a majority of the investment decisions. Twenty-two percent make all of the family’s investment decisions, while another two-thirds said they made their decisions jointly. Forty-six percent choose the family’s bank accounts.

What is most interesting about the survey is the following: the women are spending their own money. According to the survey results, 72 percent of the women work on at least a part-time basis, while 54 percent work full time. Sixty percent earn at least $100,000 a year and one third of them hold positions at the vice president level or higher and 22 percent hold managerial positions.

Those powerful careers are driven by education, according to the institute’s statistics. Eighty-eight percent of wealthy women have at least a bachelor’s degree and 35 percent have a master’s degree. For more information, click on www.luxuryboard.com and www.luxuryinstitute.com.

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