Sisters are doing it for themselves

09 Aug 2004|Added Value

While the gender rights demanded by our world leading constitution might not reflect yet in the reality of our boardrooms, pioneering women are nevertheless leading the way in redefining the identity of our fledgling democracy by empowering themselves politically, culturally and socially.

Added Value is a strategic marketing consultancy that has helped build many of the world’s top brands, largely through a commitment to discovering the truth behind what ignites peoples’ relationships with brands. In celebration of Women’s Day, they share some of the trends and truths they have uncovered about women in South Africa – and what this means for marketers.

The last 10 years have seen fundamental changes for all South Africans, and women are no exception. Today, women make up 52% of the adult South African population and although the majority of these women still live in poverty without access to employment and empowerment opportunities, a new generation of women is emerging.

From the new doyennes of business like Bridget Radebe and Maria Ramos, to the women in the townships raising their children while juggling a career, women are doing it for themselves and each other.

Francesca Duffy and Caroline Rait, Insight Specialists at Added Value South Africa, have met a remarkable array of women in the course of their research for the consultancy. According to Duffy, women are playing a crucial role in redefining and creating a vibrant new culture for South Africa. “Women are emerging from traditionally patriarchal societies (across all cultures) to become more and more independent, both financially and emotionally. Women are in fact supporting each other in building up a shared set of resources through education and experience to enable their individual independence and self-reliance.”

Rait adds that this condenses into the concept of ‘Sisterhood’; a new tribe of bold and bonded women who are confident, committed to self-empowerment, ambitious and driven, women who will stand by their ‘sisters’ through thick and thin.

Duffy and Rait say that women’s focus on the family is also still important, but that women have come into their own. They no longer solely define themselves in terms of their role in the family and are actively taking control and making substantial contributions to both their own lives and the lives of those around them. They are optimistic about the future and aspire to progress, both in terms of personal and career development, whilst remaining classy, feminine and sophisticated.

Finally, women are spending more on personal care and clothes, as their projected image becomes a key point in their definition of self.

Development particularly is a common goal for all South African women. Women’s education is subsequently becoming a potent agent for change. Increased education among women means more women are entering into formal employment, have more income and a greater power to decide what to buy. Similarly, entry into formal careers is delaying marriage and indicators suggest this means women are also having fewer children.

Duffy and Rait conclude that this presents some significant opportunities for brand owners.

The emergence of this professional, empowered, workingwoman creates a whole new audience for products like technology in the workplace (ie, cell phones as fashion accessories) and personal and home security, not to mention ready-to-eat meals, home cleaning products and child care services.

But, Duffy and Rait warn that South African women want to be real and true to themselves, they want honesty and simplicity in their lives above all else and they do not want to be compartmentalised by their gender, job or family role.

Brands that celebrate women, that help women empower themselves and each other, that enable women to run their careers, families and homes with greater simplicity and ease, these will be the brands women want.

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