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?
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.
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