Mapping women’s experience of economic and social change
How women’s actions and expectations are changing the future
Women represent just under half the global population and are the fastest growing group of consumers worldwide. Yet analyses of their role in society are often one-dimensional and linear. Usually, the examination focuses on how social and economic conditions exert changes on women’s roles and identities.
This paper inverts that perspective by exploring how women act as catalysts for fundamental changes, which are shaping not just their own world, but everybody’s world.
We show that understanding women is important, both because they are potential new sources of growth, and because the changes in how women think and act have repercussions for their wider society and, by implication, for popular and consumer culture.
The Futures Company
Acknowledging that women effect change (as well as being affected by change) does not mean that women are always in a position to make pro-active empowered decisions about their own circumstances. Before exploring the four dimensions, is it important to understand that women’s agency will be different both within and between markets. In order to make sense of this diversity of experience between markets, we have developed the Opportunity Tension Framework
One of the key tensions that is often overlooked is the disparity between the rate at which women make progress in terms of their economic contribution to society and the rate of change in terms of the social and cultural prominence they are permitted.
It is said that change in attitudes and societal values takes a generation; in the case of the social role of women this change is happening even more slowly. While greater economic participation is positively correlated with social change, changes in women’s economic role often outpace changes in their social agency. There is a range of factors to evaluate the access women have to opportunities for greater social agency.
These include labor policy, access to finance, access to education, legal and social status of women and business environment. We have used a selection of these factors in our Opportunity Tension Framework.
By taking workforce participation (a factor often taken in isolation as a proxy for progress for women) and charting it against five social factors used in the Economist Opportunity Index, we can see interesting patterns that suggest different correlations between economic and social progress of women in different parts of the world.To continue reading, download Women 2020 (pdf, 2.9 Mb)