Midlife Women: Embracing Power and Avoiding Invisibility in Global Consumer Markets

May 2013

This report explores the lives of midlife women. Despite their number, spending power and contribution to the labour force, many wonder why they are ignored. In mature markets midlifers are the big spending Boomers. In emerging markets they are a more diverse generation, but getting richer. As the world’s population ages, will this invisibility continue? Or is it time for midlife women to embrace their power and change the world?

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Three defined groups of midlife women

Women account for an increasing proportion of the workforce, remain the primary carers for home and family, and are responsible for the bulk of home consumption, but continue to be under-represented in positions of power in politics, business and the media.

In many parts of the world, women are further disadvantaged by having fewer rights and limited access to ownership and the means of production. 

There has been progress, as education and employment are within the reach of increasing numbers of women. The prospects for many young women are positive, but looking at midlife also raises some notes of caution. The pace and depth of change has been slower and more superficial than was hoped for by the early suffragettes, or the 1960s and 1970s feminists. Economic crises have had a disproportionate impact on women and children. Will the 21st century be the time for women, and especially midlife women, to embrace their rightful power?

There are major differences between midlife women in emerging markets and those in mature markets. In mature markets, midlifers are part of the much-discussed Boomer generation, born between 1946 and 1965; a generation who have been highly influential through the course of their lives. They were the first generation who wanted to be young, they demanded to be heard when teenagers and young adults, and their spending power matched their desire for self-expression. Unwilling to let go of youth, they invented “middle youth” as a new segment who demanded to be heard. Now, with the early Boomers entering retirement, all mention of “youth” is slightly desperate. They find themselves wondering if their influence will continue. Global marketers are now less interested in ageing Boomers than they are in reaching out to Generation Y in emerging markets, and midlife women find themselves traded in for younger models.

Midlife women in emerging markets are often in a difficult situation. They have had fewer opportunities to study, work and make financial provision for themselves than women in mature markets. There has been rapid economic change in many of these economies but it tends to be younger men and women (Generation X) who have driven change and benefited most. In many countries there has been rapid internal migration and it is the grandmothers in midlife who stay in rural areas looking after their grandchildren, while parents move to the towns and cities to look for work. Midlifers may be caught in the middle; they have lost the old certainties, while most of the opportunities are going to younger generations.

The new report touches on all three groups but concentrates on middle class midlifers.

What this report includes

  • Top-level strategic analysis of how major consumer trends will influence global markets
  • Consumer insight
  • Impact across all relevant consumer markets
  • Unique graphics and case studies
  • Key market snapshots
  • Accompanying presentation to synthesise main findings

Why buy this report

  • Identify factors driving change now and in the future
  • Understand motivation
  • Forward-looking outlook
  • Briefings and presentation should provoke lively discussion at senior level
  • Take a step back from micro trends
  • Get up to date estimates and comment

Delivery format

Downloadable from MyPages


Economics of midlife
Power, glory or influence?
Shopping, brands and marketing
Health and beauty
Country profiles
Future implications


Where are the world’s midlife women – the demographic view
Chart 1 Midlife Women by Region 2012 Chart 2 Global Age Cohorts by Region 2012 Chart 3 Global Midlife Women as a Proportion of the Total Female Population by Region 2012 Table 1 Female Age Cohorts by Major Markets 2012
Overview of generations
Summary 1 Generational Types
Mature market Boomers
The pre global generation – emerging market midlifers
What counts as midlife these days?
Midlife crisis – a time of reappraisal
Chart 4 Healthy Life Expectancy of Women Aged 60 Years 2012
Marriage, motherhood and middle age freedom
Table 2 Motherhood and Family Size 2012 Chart 5 Average Age of Mothers at Which their Children Reach Mid Teens 2012
Sandwiched between mum and being mum
Changing lives – changing values and expectations
Chart 6 Self Image Among Midlifers 2011
Caught between possibility and reality
Who am I next?
Happiness is simple – health, financial security, family and friends
Where’s the money – the economics of midlife
Who works
Chart 7 Female Participation in the Labour Force 2012
Who earns what?
Chart 8 % Difference in Average Disposable per Capita Income of Men and Women 2012 Chart 9 Female Participation in the Labour Force vs % Male/Female Disposable Income 2012 Chart 10 Who is Working – Female Participation in the Labour Force 2012
Work and identity
Chart 11 % Agreeing With the Statement “I Would Turn Down a Promotion if it Meant Working Longer Hours”
Power, glory or influence?
Political influence
Table 3 Women’s Political Representation, 1st February 2013
Corporate power
Summary 2 The World’s Most Powerful Women 2012
The crash of machismo?
Glory and the rise of celebrity
Beauty and the beast of celebrity
Is influence enough?
Midlife crisis for marketers?
Revolutionary women
Age denial
Social media is changing trust
Summary 3 % Agreeing With the Statement “I Trust Social Media More Than TV and Print” Summary 4 Social Media and the 45-64 Year-old Woman
When the going gets tough, the tough realise they’re empowered consumers
Still interested in new products
Chart 12 % Agreeing With the Statement “I Like to Try New Products and Services”
The changing shopper
Health and beauty
Midlife, when health becomes as important as beauty Hi tech healthcare for all? Knit your own blood, print your own hip... “Doc” the medibot is watching over you Healthy living Summary 5 Midlife Women’s Beliefs About Health Chart 13 Consumption of Fruit and Vegetables Per Capita (kg per Annum) 2012 It is increasingly odd to be a “normal” weight Chart 14 Middle Aged Spread – % of Women Either Obese (BMI 30+) or Overweight (BMI 25-30) 2012
Technology – the great disruptor
When devices outnumber people Chart 15 % Household Ownership of Landlines, Mobile Phones and Broadband Enabled PCs 2012


Chart 16 Overview of Midlife Women, Brazil Summary 6 Digital Activity, Brazil
Chart 17 Overview of Midlife Women, China Summary 7 Digital Activity, China
Chart 18 Overview of Midlife Women, France Summary 8 Digital Activity, France
Chart 19 Overview of Midlife Women, Germany Summary 9 Digital Activity, Germany
Chart 20 Overview of Midlife Women, India “Eve teasing” Summary 10 Digital Activity, India
Chart 21 Overview of Midlife Women, Japan Summary 11 Digital Activity, Japan
Table 4 % Change in UK Female Population 1980-2020 Chart 22 Overview of Midlife Women, UK Summary 12 Digital Activity, UK
Chart 23 Overview of Midlife Women, US Summary 13 Digital Activity, US


An ageing world
Chart 24 Growth Rates of Age Cohorts of Women 1980-2020 Table 5 Changing Age Profiles of Women by Country 2012-2020 Table 6 GDP Growth (%) – Ranked by 2015 Growth Rate Table 7 Women’s “Misery Index” (Ranked by 2015 Scores) 2012-2020
The next generational shift


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