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Shopping During A SheCession

Opinion piece by Pride Maunatlala, founder at ar.che.ty.pal, a personal branding and business strategy consultancy and Director of SheSays Cape Town 

It’s critical to reflect on the role brands play in the lives of women as consumers – especially during a “SheCession”. What is a SheCession, you ask? Well, the term was coined by C Nicole Mason to describe a recession that affects more women than men, and is most appropriate for describing the effects of COVID-19 on economies globally.

While the crisis affects everyone, women have been hit harder, and the signs that we’re living in a SheCession are clear. So, if you’re a marketer who wants to connect to a female audience, then you need to immerse yourself in understanding these women’s realities. It’s an important time to truly meet women where they are with practical solutions to ease their lives – and their purses.

READ MORE: How To Set Up A Worst-Case Scenario Plan For Your Biz

Yes, women still have it tough…

Walking through the realities women face can be uncomfortable, but it must be done. More women than men lost their jobs during the 2020 lockdown and the trend has continued throughout 2021. As it is, the majority of women employed in the formal sector work in the lower-paid sectors of the labour force.

We’re talking the service sector, like domestic and retail work – jobs that offer women the flexibility to work part-time in order to fulfil their obligations in unpaid work. The result: further pushing women into subordinate positions in the labour market.

Those who can still work during the pandemic are at a higher risk of infection as they carry out their tasks in high-contact and frontline roles. Most also rely on public transport to get to their place of work. Think of the mental strain – the daily accumulated fear of contracting the virus.

Women at home are certainly not having it any easier. Inequality in the home reveals itself through unpaid work and unbalanced gender roles. Yes, both men and women have reported having more to do in the home since the rollout of lockdowns… but, according to a study by UN Women, even before COVID-19, women spent an average of 4.1 hours per day performing unpaid work, while men spent 1.7 hours. The pandemic has only exacerbated the situation, leaving women with even more unpaid work, from homeschooling children to caring for the home and the sick.

Lockdown has also heightened the dire reality of continued violence against women and girls, leaving women with no safety and nowhere to go. Women are forced to stay in this tense situation, heightened by cramped, confined living conditions. Women overall have been carrying a heavier burden, physically, mentally, emotionally and economically.

READ MORE: Listen Up, Job-Seekers – This Advice Is A Game-Changer

And still, in this SheCession, women rise

The context is heavy. And for some brands, it might be tempting to focus solely on the resilience of women. Because, yes, despite their plight, women continue to rise. These are the same women showing up and showing fortitude. Women have increasingly been engaging in positive stories on multiple platforms and exchanging encouragement and tips to make life easier. Women are ‘plugging’ each other into everything from better-value stylists to local businesses worth supporting. Women are collectively celebrating the success of other women breaking ceilings. Women are still seeking light moments to breathe and for moments of inspiration that give hope.

A call for a SheCession Relief Package

So, where will brands find the female audience they’re looking to connect with? In the daily exchange between the heaviness of economic exclusion, the threat to physical safety, and optimism. This is where they should be met authentically. The optimism space is where most brands have chosen to participate when speaking to women. And it’s a great start. But it’s time to go deeper.

Brands have to sit with the discomfort of their female audience’s lived experiences and design solutions that not only inspire but also create true change. As a brand wanting to talk to women, you need a SheSession Relief Package. Think: affordability, convenience, accessibility and inclusivity.

Face the affordability facts

Right now, a woman’s purse is the most stretched. Between kids, home-care and herself, often she skips herself. The careful choice comes down to brands that speak to her and brands that make life easier. Review your value proposition beyond price promotion or discount. Solve real problems in a real way. For most women, earning and spending is not individualistic. Brands – expand your thinking to include their ecosystem: their family, community, interest groups and personal ambition.

Now ask yourself this question…

When you have your campaign message and mechanics in front of you, ask yourself this question: how will this improve women’s lives and current position? If your only answer is that it will give them confidence, then go back to the drawing board. Don’t just adjust your messages; adjust your offering. Confidence alone is not enough. Tackle accessibility, convenience and affordability for women too.

Walk the talk you preach, internally and externally

One of 2020’s brand lessons has been the call for brands to be authentic and willing to listen, learn and improve. Ask yourself what your business is doing to internally include all groups of women. Brands that gender-wash their marketing without making the true change internally are becoming more exposed and stand to lose trust. Choose to have women hold their rightful positions; balance the equation and pay gap. For brands who do it well, and those who don’t, women see you.

At the end of the day, yes, bring the pom-poms – but bring the toolkits too. Don’t give a message about the light at the end of the tunnel. Light up the whole tunnel already!

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