May 10, 2023

Finding Alpha: The Trillion Dollar Female Economy

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Women have always had primary purchasing responsibility for everyday household items, but as women have gained increasing economic power, their influence has expanded. Women control or influence over 85% of consumer spending, including healthcare for themselves and their children, consumer retail, household needs, and more. Increasingly, the categories where women wield consumer influence are those that are also being transformed by technology.

In spite of this market-making influence and purchasing power, women have long been treated as a niche market whose needs can be met by “shrinking and pinking” products originally designed for men. The business opportunities presented by a consumer group that makes up half of the world’s population is nothing close to a niche market. Women are responsible for more than $31 trillion in yearly consumer spending.

Women’s health is one of the biggest opportunities in healthcare. The women’s health market is projected to reach $41.05 billion by 2027, growing at a CAGR of 3.2% and ‘femtech’ technology companies like Maven Health, Kindbody, Hims & Hers, and Carrot Fertility have grown out of the increased agency that women expect to exercise on their own health and wellness needs. Categories like fertility, pregnancy, and menopause are important starting points in the women’s health market, but the opportunities go even deeper into categories like hormonal health, preventative health, and early detection and treatment of chronic conditions that affect the lives of women.

Opportunities also exist well beyond women’s health. Women hold influence over the many ways they connect online, shop, and access products and services for themselves and their families. This role as super consumer should increase their access to products that take into account the many different ways that women save, spend, and invest money; and how those change over time based on their life stage, career choices, marital status, or whether or not they have children.

The opportunity for female-focused products or those where women make up a significant part of the user base are not just pinked versions of products designed for the masses, they’re products that speak to the specific, nuanced, and growing needs of female consumers. Building toward the needs of women does not mean that every product should be gendered. In fact, most products should not be unnecessarily gendered, but speak to the real needs and problems that women want to solve.

At the height of the COVID-19 pandemic, more than 2.3 million women left the workforce, accounting for 53% of US labor-force exits. Three years later, those numbers have been completely replaced. However, women are still tasked with family caregiving roles that limit their economic contributions and they can disproportionately be found in low-wage professional caregiving roles that provide care for our most vulnerable family members, but do not come with the economic stability that allows them to support themselves and their families. The lack of access to care pushes women out of the workforce, decreases their earning power, and puts our economic stability in jeopardy.

Many investors think about the opportunity to invest in women exclusively from the lens of female founders (and we can’t talk about the opportunity in female consumers without acknowledging the dismal numbers for investment in female founders), but there is a parallel opportunity in the female economy — investing in technology that solves the problems and meets the needs of female consumers.

This opportunity combined with addressing the challenges of women's access to economic power has the potential to unlock billions of dollars for investors and entrepreneurs.

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