Women need prod­uct providers to speak to their val­ues

Re­search shows that women dif­fer sub­stan­tially from men in how they re­late to in­vest­ing and man­ag­ing money. re­ports

Pretoria News Weekend - - PET CARE -

THE bias may be sub­lim­i­nal, but it’s fair to say that most fi­nan­cial prod­ucts, from in­vest­ments to in­surance, are mar­keted to men. A prod­uct may ben­e­fit a whole fam­ily, and a fresh­faced model mom, dad and kids may fea­ture in its mar­ket­ing ma­te­rial, but the prod­uct will be aimed at the bread­win­ner of the fam­ily, which is typ­i­cally as­sumed to be a man.

The fi­nan­cial ser­vices in­dus­try world­wide is still over­whelm­ingly dom­i­nated by men, in­clud­ing those in­volved in prod­uct de­sign, such as ac­tu­ar­ies. Slowly, women are in­fil­trat­ing this male world, and grad­u­ally the needs of women are be­ing taken into ac­count – both in the mar­ket­ing of prod­ucts that are not gen­der-spe­cific and in the de­sign of prod­ucts specif­i­cally for women.

Some coun­tries are more ad­vanced than South Africa in this re­spect. Fi­nan­cial writer Ad­hil Chetty, in an ar­ti­cle in In­dia’s Fi­nan­cial Times ear­lier this year, notes that women are rel­a­tively well catered for in the In­dian fi­nan­cial ser­vices sec­tor. There are cheaper home and car loans for women, bank sav­ings ac­counts for woman cus­tomers, credit and debit cards cus­tom-de­signed for women, and a large range of in­surance prod­ucts for women. For woman en­trepreneurs, some In­dian banks of­fer loans on easy terms and at lower in­ter­est rates.

So what should prod­uct providers be tak­ing into ac­count when de­sign­ing prod­ucts for and mar­ket­ing prod­ucts to women?

First of all, there are the hard re­al­i­ties:

• Women live longer than men. On av­er­age, women tend to out­live men by seven to 10 years, ac­cord­ing to the World Health Or­gan­i­sa­tion (WHO).

• Women earn less for do­ing the same jobs in many in­dus­tries. Ac­cord­ing to the WHO, women gen­er­ally earn 15% to 17% less than their male coun­ter­parts.

• Women are less likely to be the house­hold bread­win­ners than men. This statis­tic is fast chang­ing in South Africa, as re­ported in Per­sonal Fi­nance last week, with 41.3% of house­holds headed by women, ac­cord­ing to Statis­tics South Africa.

• On divorce, women tend to emerge worse off fi­nan­cially than their male coun­ter­parts.

• Women bear chil­dren, re­sult­ing in, among other things, longer breaks from work be­cause of ma­ter­nity leave.

• Women suf­fer from dif­fer­ent dis­eases to men.

Then there are the “softer” per­son­al­ity dif­fer­ences, which man­i­fest in the fol­low­ing:

• Women tend to be the car­ers in so­ci­ety, and as such their val­ues gen­er­ally dif­fer from those of men;

• Women are typ­i­cally more re­spon­si­ble driv­ers than men, and there­fore pose a lower risk to in­sur­ers; and

• Women tend to be more care­ful with their money and take lower risks with it, not only spend­ing more wisely but in­vest­ing more con­ser­va­tively.

Fi­nally, there are the widely held as­sump­tions, which may have been true when men were over­whelm­ingly the bread­win­ners, but may not be true now. These are that:

• Women are gen­er­ally less fi­nan­cially lit­er­ate than men; and

• Women rely on their male part­ners to make the fi­nan­cial de­ci­sions.


Gemma Cer­nuda, a Span­ish com­mu­ni­ca­tions con­sul­tant spe­cial­is­ing in brand­ing and com­mu­ni­ca­tion for women, has helped com­pa­nies in Spain to con­nect with women con­sumers. In an in­ter­view on the on­line Strands Fi­nan­cial Blog, she says women are gen­er­ally dis­sat­is­fied with fi­nan­cial prod­uct providers, be­cause these com­pa­nies “are built on mas­cu­line norms and a one-size-fits-all for­mat. De­vel­op­ing prod­ucts and ser­vices re­ly­ing on male traits and val­ues doesn’t res­onate with fe­male con­sumers.”

She says some fi­nan­cial in­sti­tu­tions may ar­gue that women’s fi­nan­cial needs are al­most the same as men’s. “The ob­vi­ous truth is that women and men are both in­ter­ested in hav­ing money and earning more, but women have a dis­tinct set of val­ues that shape their money-man­age­ment habits. Women as­so­ciate wealth with se­cu­rity and eco­nom­i­cal sta­bil­ity. Fam­ily well-be­ing comes be­fore per­sonal in­ter­est.”

Cer­nuda says re­search shows that women dif­fer sub­stan­tially from men in how they re­late to in­vest­ing and money man­age­ment over­all. “They do not want to hear about the growth or com­par­a­tive per­for­mance of dif­fer­ent funds. They want in­for­ma­tion about reach­ing their long-term goals … so the level of fi­nan­cial risk women can take is also lower than men.

“Women also take de­ci­sions very dif­fer­ently than men. They take more time to think, con­sider var­i­ous touch points of in­for­ma­tion … they need a con­ver­sa­tion with brands and are look­ing to en­gage on­line and off­line through con­ver­sa­tions.”

Cer­nuda says that when it comes to mar­ket­ing fi­nan­cial prod­ucts and ser­vices to women, com­pa­nies should fo­cus on com­mu­ni­cat­ing the FI­NAN­CIAL ser­vices com­pa­nies that have prod­ucts de­signed for women in­clude the fol­low­ing:


real value of a prod­uct, on trans­parency, on com­mit­ment to so­cial causes, and on long-last­ing re­la­tion­ships built on trust.

She says the mes­sage needs to in­clude em­pa­thy and emo­tions. “That doesn’t nec­es­sar­ily mean adding a pink colour, or ex­plicit phrases like ‘bank­ing for women’ or other ob­vi­ous con­no­ta­tions tar­get­ing the fe­male seg­ment. The mes­sage needs to ap­peal to the be­liefs and val­ues of women in a more sub­tle way.”

She says the real fi­nan­cial in­sti­tu­tion for women “should praise favourable terms es­pe­cially for women en­trepreneurs. They in­clude:

• Absa Women Em­pow­er­ment Fund: of­fers fi­nance of be­tween R50 000 and R5 mil­lion, with en­ter­prise devel­op­ment cen­tres lo­cated through­out South Africa.

• Busi­ness Part­ners’ Women in Busi­ness Fund: pro­vides ac­cess to fi­nance and in­vests in com­mer­cially vi­able women-owned busi­nesses, and of­fers sup­port such as ac­cess to in­for­ma­tion and net­work­ing fa­cil­i­ties, and work­shops and sem­i­nars.

• Isi­vande Women’s Fund: a gov­ern­ment fund aimed at stim­u­lat­ing women’s eco­nomic em­pow­er­ment by of­fer­ing loans of be­tween R30 000 and R2m for busi­nesses that have been op­er­a­tional for more than six months.

• Women En­tre­pre­neur­ial Fund: a fund es­tab­lished by the In­dus­trial Devel­op­ment Cor­po­ra­tion, with R450m set aside for help­ing women in busi­ness. au­then­tic­ity, pro­vide fi­nan­cial lit­er­acy ad­vice, use fe­male-friendly lan­guage, and make women feel smart, not framed in stereo­types”.


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