It seems strange to me that moms, in so many ways, are ignored as the vital force that they are in the economy. I don’t mean to say that no one recognizes the contribution of mothers, but for the most part, tributes to mothers are lip service. Their actual, real work is invisible to many economists.
This is unfortunate because I think that if businesses (which are run, with a few exceptions, mostly by white males) took stock of the influence mothers have on the financial forces that keep the economy going, they would do things differently.
Let’s take advertising as an example. Most television programs (though with increased on-demand programming, this is starting to change) live and die by Nielsen ratings, and advertisers are mostly interested in buying time slots for this age range. These ratings are most concerned with the 18-34 demographic. Though some people in this age range have children, at the median age of 26, most will not have married and had children yet. But by the age of 44, 80% of women will have become mothers. So the markets are aiming largely at single, childless people, and the interests of mothers are not as well represented as they would be if advertising were aimed at the general population. Most of the child and baby advertising I’ve personally seen is shown during daytime hours—presuming, I imagine, that SAHPs are watching. But most of the SAHPs I know don’t have too much time for television viewing, and when they do watch, it’s in the evening when their kids are asleep.
Another example: purchasing power. I first learned that women control 80% of buying decisions when I read Ann Crittenden’s If You’ve Raised Kids, You Can Manage Anything. It’s not just kids’ clothes, diapers, and home décor, either. Women are buying houses, cars, riding lawnmowers, furniture, and power tools. They’re buying electronic equipment and making entertainment decisions and saving for the future. They consistently outperform men when they invest. Yet too often, products are created and made as if men control the purse strings.
Women also invest in the future, not just with their money, but with how they raise their children. This is one reason that microfinance programs in developing countries have been so successful. I recognize that this doesn’t hold true in every situation, but in general, women tend to spend more on their children’s health, education, and well-being than men do. They also tend to spend more time with their children. This investment means better outcomes for the future. Again, speaking generally, this means that the next generation will be more likely to contribute to society rather than burden it, and the economy will grow as a result. Even the greatest mathematical geniuses probably spent a few hours drilling times tables with their parents.
This, I think, is one reason companies that seek to hire, retain, and promote women do better than those that don’t. Women recognize the value of other women’s contributions to the economy. When a woman imagines the customer who will be purchasing their products, she thinks of a woman, maybe a mother like herself. Since women are responsible for so much of the spending power in our economy, she’s probably right. And her company and the economy are richer for it.