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What a Working Woman Wants

July 28, 2010

Below is a great article from Advertising Age about the reality of working women.

There are several pieces to this report so I’ll post them separately to keep from overwhelming you with too much information. 🙂

You can find the full report at

What a Working Woman Wants

“The archetype of the working woman certainly is nothing new in entertainment. The trail was blazed by such iconic sitcom characters as Mary Richards, Murphy Brown, Julia Sugarbaker and Claire Huxtable (who, in supermom fashion, made partner in her law firm while raising five children). More contemporary characters include high-powered hospital executive Dr. Lisa Cuddy on Fox’s “House,” while the network’s “24” last season gave us Allison

Taylor as the first female U.S. president. Then, of course, there is NBC’s show-within-a-show “30 Rock,” whose head writer, Liz Lemon, is played to crowd-pleasing, award-winning effect by the show’s real-life creator,Tina Fey.

But despite these empowered and empowering portrayals, when it comes time for the commercial break, it can seem as though the feminist revolution never happened.

Certainly, how women feel about work is an important factor for brands seeking to reach this target. It is instructive, then, to examine just how women do feel about their work. For starters, many see the workplace as still largely a man’s world. In our survey, 65% of women called the idea of a genderbalanced work force a myth. And almost as many men (60%) agreed. For all their advancement, the working woman has hardly become a staple of advertising. Office-supply chain OfficeMax recognized this as an opportunity to break through the clutter. In a recent OfficeMax spot, a 30-ish, professional woman prepares for the big meeting—rehearsing in front of the mirror, making copies of

her presentation, and ultimately delivering a knockout performance. She exudes confidence, charm and charisma.

The spot was part of a broader effort, initiated in 2009, to target women, following two years of research that found women buy $44.5 billion in office supplies each year. That revelation led to a major shift in marketing strategy at the chain, one that took into account exactly who its target audience really was and that led to the creation of “Eve.” The fictional Eve is very much a presence in meetings where such issues as products or store design are mulled, explained Bob Thacker, senior VP-marketing, who noted that 70% of all new businesses are started by women. As part of its changing marketing philosophy, the chain also established OfficeTalk, a panel of 5,000 working women who provide feedback on product design, services and messaging. “It’s dynamic and constantly changing, and a great way to constantly be in touch with what women are really thinking,” Thacker said. OfficeMax is not the only brand in the category strategically courting working women. Office Depot has launched a web-based seminar series aimed at small-business owners and female professionals, created a women’s advisory board, and has hosted a conference for women in business for seven years running.

In March, the National Association of Female Executives named Office Depot one of the top 50 companies for executive women. “More companies need to understand what Office Depot understands, that having women in the executive ranks means you have the perspective of those making over 80% of buying decisions in America: women,” NAFE president Betty Spence said in announcing the award. Traditionally, companies serving business owners had a pretty simple target: men. No more. Since 1987, the number of women-owned businesses in the U.S. has doubled, while revenues have grown five-fold, according to SCORE. Today, they account for 40% of all privately held companies, according to the Center for Women’s Business Research. Further, one in five companies with revenue of $1 million or more is owned by women.”

So what matters most to women? 21% says competitive salary-wage, 10% say the benefits offered, 13% say the ability to work from home, 9% say work-life balance,  and 6% say feel like they’re making a difference.

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