“Having It All” Doesn’t Give Women What They Really Want
What do women really want? In today's world, the most common response is "women want to have it all." What does it mean to have it all and is this what women really want? What we found was surprising and extremely interesting. Most importantly, we think this information can change the way many businesses think about their female customers.
What do women really want? In today's world, the most common response is "women want to have it all." However, in a recent article, Princeton professor Anne-Marie Slaughter weighs in on why she believes this is impossible for women in today's world. Slaughter defines having it all as "a rise up the ladder as fast as men and also have a family and an active home life (and be thin and beautiful to boot)." With over 1 million views and 23,000 blog posts and responses, the article has received a lot of attention. While reading through these arguments, Insights in Marketing was struck by these two thoughts: what does it mean to have it all and is this what women really want?
We felt these were important questions to answer. Rather than asking a bunch of professional opinion leaders, we decided to ask REAL, EVERYDAY WOMEN. So, we conducted interviews with women from all over the country and from a variety of demographic backgrounds. What we found was surprising and extremely interesting. Most importantly, we think this information can change the way many businesses think about their female customers.
"Having It All": An Outdated Definition
When asked directly: "Do you want to have it all?" The majority of these women said "yes." However, when asked to define what having it all meant to them, major differences arose between the definition being used by Slaughter and the other writers and the definition being used by the real, everyday women we interviewed.
All of the women reported some level of frustration with the traditional definition of having it all, and the majority of them said that they had redefined it into something that better fit their wants and needs. Indeed, 80% of women said that their definition was different than that of society and ALMOST ALL OF THEM said that happiness comes from something other than having it all. As one woman said, "The older I get the more I realize that 'having' doesn't equal 'happy'."
Women told us that knowing of someone who supposedly had it all made them reevaluate whether they wanted this for themselves. "I realized that the people I was around who supposedly had it all, had lives of celebrity and things that "normals" envy, that they really didn't have it all" stated one woman. So, if women don't want to have it all, what do they want?
Not Having It All, but "Having Enough"
Overall, the women interviewed said their main goal was to feel fulfilled and content with themselves and their lives. The vast majority didn't believe they could find fulfillment or contentment through the pursuit of having it all. Instead, fulfillment and contentment were seen as the result of recognizing and appreciating who they were and what they already had in their lives. Said in another way, what women said they wanted is to feel fulfilled and content by "having enough".
Having enough was described as a process of mindfully balancing how much time was spent in each area of their lives. Balancing time gave women the ability to be fully present in their lives and to avoid any feelings of "guilt" or "regret." "Having a balance in life is very important," stated one woman, "it's the only way I've found you can be happy with your life and all parts of it."
Implications for Marketing to Women
- Embrace the attitude of appreciation, not aspiration. Aspiration promises a world of imbalance and is hyperbolic. These women want to appreciate what they can have without taking away the balance in life they seek. Aspiration promises indulgence and striving for perfection not fulfillment and contentment.
- Give them more time, not less. Mindfulness of time and how they allocate it is incredibly important. If you ask women to devote more time to a product or service, it is unlikely that it will be readily embraced.
Coming Soon - A Dedicated IIM Team Focused on Understanding Women
Launching in September, IIM will have a dedicated team of social scientists and market researchers who specialize in helping companies refine and reimagine what it means to effectively market to women. This team's foundational belief is that in order to effectively market to women, marketers really need a deep understanding of who they are and what drives their behavior. We can help you to understand women better than ever before and translate this knowledge into actionable results. Please contact our Director of Client Development for more information about this new team or more details about the study above.