Women Have Clout

February 23, 2008
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GRAND RAPIDS — Business journalist Fara Warner believes American women serve as an inspiration to women around the world because they have gone through a revolution in regard to securing economic and financial freedom.

“There’s a real sense among many countries, increasingly in the developing world, that the fastest way to grow your economy is to educate a woman,” Warner said. “Give her access to business participation and give her political empowerment.”

Despite the state of the U.S. economy at present, it has always been considered one of the strongest economies in the world, and in Warner’s estimation, that’s because women have been a major component of U.S. economic progress for more than 50 years.

Warner will be the keynote speaker at the 50 Most Influential Women in West Michigan event to be held March 5 at the JW Marriott.

“I think you can look at women in America, really, as symbolic of what happens when you give women the right to vote, give them access to education and give them access to capital,” Warner remarked. “The women who will be honored at the 50 Most Influential Women luncheon really are indicative of that.”

Warner is a visiting professor at the University of Michigan this year. She has written about marketing, advertising and consumer trends for such publications as The Wall Street Journal, Fast Company and Forbes, among others. She is the author of “The Power of the Purse: How Smart Businesses Are Adapting To the World’s Most Important Consumers — Women.”

American women control $7 trillion in purchasing power. By 2010, they’ll control more than $13 trillion in private wealth. Women make 80 percent of all household buying decisions and, increasingly, women are making more and more decisions in business. Throughout the world, women’s financial and economic clout is changing business forever, Warner observed, but many women don’t recognize the power they have in their purse.

“Money is power, and I think we’re just beginning to learn what that can do for us,” she said.

The next step is for women to use their money to change the world through philanthropic endeavors, Warner said.

Pay parity remains an issue for women in the workplace, and women have to speak up about it and ask how they line up, pay-wise, with male and female coworkers. Part of the pay parity problem, as Warner sees it, remains institutional: There are executives and managers of companies who still don’t think of women as primary breadwinners; thus, they don’t need to be paid as much.

“Even in younger generations, there remains that underlying assumption that men deserve to be paid more. That’s something we just have to keep pounding away at,” Warner said.

From Warner’s perspective, there has never been a better time to be a woman in America.

“It’s really now our time to take the power that our mothers, grandmothers and great-grandmothers amassed for us and use it to help other women in our lives and, more broadly, to help the world at large,” she said.

Tickets for the Business Journal’s 50 Most Influential Women event on March 5 can be obtained by calling 459-3222. Corporate tables are available.

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