The theme for this year’s International Women’s Day on March 8 is #BalanceforBetter underpinned by the idea that balance drives a better working world. For years, we have heard that gender inequality must be addressed in order for economies and businesses to prosper. In fact, the United Nations includes gender equality as one of the Sustainable Development Goals—the foundations for a peaceful, prosperous and sustainable world. However, the United Nations 2018 Global Gender Gap Index indicates that around the world there is still a 32% gender gap that needs to be closed across four dimensions—1) Economic Participation and Opportunity, 2) Educational Attainment, 3) Health and Survival and 4) Political Empowerment.

This is still a sizable gap and is virtually unchanged from last year, but are women’s attitudes changing? In a new gender-focused study, we looked at consumer confidence, economic sentiment and spending intentions by gender over the past five years to understand how the needs and wants of female consumers have evolved.


Women have become much more optimistic over the years. As of the fourth-quarter of 2018, men had a higher consumer confidence score at 110 globally relative to that of women at 103. However, women’s confidence level has increased faster than men’s over the last five years. This may be the result of increased access to education, jobs and health care, as well as key milestones in closing the gender gap that have been achieved by many countries around the world.


Women continue to be concerned about career-related issues. Work-life balance and job security are some of the top five concerns for both women and men. With more women being in the workforce, employers can do more to create work environments that help both men and women strike a better balance between their personal and professional lives.

Diving deeper into consumer concerns at the regional level found that women’s top concerns are less about survival (e.g., food prices, domestic affairs or utility bills), but more societal and economic. Health is in the top three concerns for the most developed regions, symptomatic of women expecting to live longer and enjoying more affluent lifestyles.


Things are looking up for women at work. Globally, more women feel that their job prospects for the next 12 months are excellent or good, relative to five years ago. This also holds true at a regional level, excepting Latin America, which is likely due to political instability in some countries.

Comparing men versus women, we see that there is a sizable gap between men and women’s confidence in their job prospects.

What may be causing this imbalance? The glass ceiling may be to blame. A 2018 study by Catalyst of women in the workforce shows that globally, women hold less than a quarter (24%) of senior roles in 2018, down from 25% in 2017. And the same study found that 25% of global businesses have no women in senior management roles. The reality is that women have a limited number of role models to aspire to.

But there is still reason for hope. Our study found that women’s savings rate has increased from 30% to 50% over the last five years. And 44% of women say that now is the right time to buy the things they want and need. Both of these affirm women’s increasing buying power and potential impact on the economy.

There is something to celebrate this International Women’s Day. A look back at our Consumer Confidence Survey shows women’s increasing confidence and influence. Gender balance is critical for successful businesses and economies, and the call to drive gender parity this year reminds us that we all have a role in making that balance a reality. Let’s work together to achieve #BalanceForBetter.

How To Balance For Better On International Women's Day

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When you add more women to any equation, there is a return on equality. The theme of this year’s International Women’s Day is #BalanceforBetter, because parity benefits us all. Equality is not a female issue; it’s a social and economic imperative. In fact we could add as much as $28 trillion to the global GDP if we reached full gender equality by 2025, according to McKinsey and Company.

It’s not just about diversity as a strategy or having an environment of inclusion, it’s about creating a culture of belonging, where anyone can walk into the workplace and feel comfortable. That means having more of everything surrounding you. I believe that the flipping point for belonging is a minimum 30% female representation at every level. Here are some countries who are bettering the balance across sectors—from government to boardrooms to film—and some solutions for change.

In the boardroom: France

France has used quotas to help better the balance in the boardroom, with more than 44% women on company boards.  As an aside, another country to watch is Australia, which may be the first country in the world to achieve nearly 30% gender diversity in the top 100 boardrooms without using quotas or regulations, according to the Australian Institute of Company Directors.

Solution for change: In countries that have an average of three women on large company boards (a flipping point number in which you start to see a return on diversity), all but one also have mandated quotas, according to Bloomberg. In the US, California was the first state to require at least one women on corporate boards, and it may help pave the way for other states to follow suit in 2019.

It is clear that quotas are working to force the flip, and the next step is to make sure that we’re hiring the top talent. I always say, don’t hire me to fill a quota, hire me because I’m the best!

In advertising & film: The United States

Media helps shape culture and how we see ourselves, yet gender equality is far from reality in Hollywood. However, the U.S. is making some small steps, with female characters comprising a historical high of 31% of the sole protagonists in the top-grossing 100 films in 2018, according to Women And Hollywood. Also, more than 40% of all the projects premiering at the Sundance Film Festival this year were directed by women.

Solution for change: Creating metrics for accountability will help flip the script. I cofounded the #SeeHer movement to increase the accurate representation of women and girls in media by using the Gender Equality Metric (GEM) score.

The return on equality: Gender-equal ads see a nearly 30% increase in sales growth performance, according to an ANA #SeeHer study. 

In government: Rwanda

Gender quotas, put in place following the genocide, require that women make up 30% of parliamentarians. For over a decade, Rwanda has topped the list of countries with the most female parliamentarians.

Solution for change: Simply seeing more women run for office may be a catalyst for helping other women to see themselves in government, too—and shift old stereotypes about what political leaders look like.  Case in point: The United States has seen improvements in gender diversity in Congress. After November’s midterm elections, the representation of women in Congress increased from 19% to almost 24%.

Sometimes we need a little encouragement from our girlfriends to give us the confidence to take a leap: If you know a woman who could make an impact, encourage her to run by checking out She Should Run, an organization offering inspiration and resources for women who are considering going for political office.

The return on equality: Equal representation in government may help more legislation get completed. Women in the minority party of the House are about 33% more effective than men in getting bills passed, finds a University of Virginia study. On another note, in the business world gender-balanced leadership teams were 21% more likely to experience above-average profitability than companies with the least gender-balanced teams, according to a McKinsey Report.

In STEM: Lithuania

Women have flipped the balance in STEM in Lithuania, with 57% of scientists and engineers being female, according the World Economic Forum. Women also outnumber men in these professions in Bulgaria, Latvia, Portugal and Denmark and Norway.

Solution for change: The global gender gap in STEM stands at 47%, according to the World Economic Forum.  Changing the bro culture in tech in general by pushing for equal parental leave policies, advancing more women into leadership and closing the wage gap will bring us closer to parity.

The return on equality: It would pay off for tech companies to have a workforce that better reflects and understands half the world’s population, since women are an economic force: Women influence more than 85% of consumer purchases, accounting for $4.3 trillion in spending, according to The Atlantic.

There are more than three billion women in the world. Imagine what we could do if we harnessed all that power! Let’s #BettertheBalance. Together, we can make International Women’s Day not just one day, but every day.


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