more women ‘bring home the bacon’

Articles
March 25, 2009

more women ‘bring home the bacon’

Women have proliferated in the workforce for decades, but it’s different now. Unlike their earlier fight for equal rights in the Gloria Steinem/Betty Friedan era—when work done well showcased women’s abilities, and their earnings were largely secondary incomes for households—women face new pressures today. Since millions of men in their lives have lost jobs in this recession, more women today bear the burden of being primary breadwinners. Not just incremental earners who add to quality of life, but the main source of a household’s financial strength. Just add full-time work to their usual slate of responsibilities: bear and raise children, be supportive partners, cook, clean, shop and more. Piece of cake, right? Don’t today’s stakes make the Superwoman theme of decades ago seem hollow by comparison? So chalk up the well-tuned balance of millions of relationships as casualties of the recession. People need to eat, keep warm and pay the rent. Today’s new stresses are bound to foster changes in the way men and women relate, bring value to their households, and divvy up essential chores like shopping and preparing meals.

Women have proliferated in the workforce for decades, but it’s different now. Unlike their earlier fight for equal rights in the Gloria Steinem/Betty Friedan era—when work done well showcased women’s abilities, and their earnings were largely secondary incomes for households—women face new pressures today.

            Since millions of men in their lives have lost jobs in this recession, more women today bear the burden of being primary breadwinners. Not just incremental earners who add to quality of life, but the main source of a household’s financial strength. Just add full-time work to their usual slate of responsibilities: bear and raise children, be supportive partners, cook, clean, shop and more.

            Piece of cake, right? Don’t today’s stakes make the Superwoman theme of decades ago seem hollow by comparison?

            So chalk up the well-tuned balance of millions of relationships as casualties of the recession. People need to eat, keep warm and pay the rent. Today’s new stresses are bound to foster changes in the way men and women relate, bring value to their households, and divvy up essential chores like shopping and preparing meals.

            These changes, in turn, should keep CPG and retail marketers up at night figuring out how to keep relating appropriately as households across the nation rebalance their lives. Brands and stores that ring true to people’s needs will stay relevant. But how best to do that, and meet the challenge that goes beyond quality, price or value.

            Some key questions to consider: Will males become tomorrow’s primary shoppers and cooks? The gatekeepers for their children’s nutrition? The clippers and clickers of coupons? The source of creativity in the kitchen to keep routines and meals satisfying? How much pride will they take in these new roles, and how hard will they work at them?

            If women grow comfortable with less involvement, that could leave classic marketing approaches in the dust.

            The trend is significant. Two out of three women with children under 18 work, and women comprise 46% of the labor pool, say Bureau of Labor Statistics data. But USA Today.says “this recession could soon make women a majority of America’s workforce: 82% of the 2.5 million jobs lost since November were held by men.”

            Will household roles be flipped for the long term? How drastically will families refigure their roles and relationships with food-related tasks? SupermarketGuru.com sees a big societal shift underway that could redefine what it takes for food and beverage brands, and retailers, to stay relevant and succeed with consumers who will likely have less energy or interest to fuss over what their families eat—though they’ll demand quality, value, taste and nutrition in new ways.