The first thing you should know about Womenomics is that it's not some feel-good, nutty crunchy rant about what companies "should" be doing for women. If it will make you feel better, we'll tell you to go do some yoga, but that's beside the point.
No, Womenomics is about power and making good business decisions. We deal in facts, not stereotypes, and some of those facts are surprising.
First, you should know women have huge power in the workplace and marketplace right now, power most of us don't even know about. Because why would the corporate world give away that leverage?
Companies with more senior female managers make more money. A 19-year Pepperdine University survey of Fortune 500 companies showed that those with the best record of promoting women outperformed the competition by anywhere from 41 to 116 percent. That's an eye-opener. And there are other similar studies from Catalyst, and the University of California, Davis.
Women's management style is suddenly seen as valuable, not soft. Our right-brain skills like inclusiveness, a focus on compromise, and aversion to risk are seen as necessary for a profitable business.
Nick Lehman pointed out that the buzz at the World Economic Forum in Davos, Switzerland, this year, looking at the dearth of women at investment banks, was that a Lehman brothers with a few sisters on board might have contained the economic crisis.
And we do most of the buying. No kidding, you might be thinking. But it's no joke when women control 83 percent of consumer spending. We recently crossed the 50 percent line in terms of car-buying. We literally buy more cars than men do! And guess who car companies need to design vehicles we like?
Oh… and a talent shortage looms. The younger generations are smaller, and in the next few years the Employment Policy Foundation estimates there will be a 6 million person gap between college graduates and people needed to cover job growth. And that gap that will just keep getting bigger. Highly educated employees will be in huge demand. Guess which sex earns more college and advanced degrees?
We're getting a huge boost from our youngers, who have no desire to work the way they've seen us working. They don't want to sit in an office for 10 hours a day, and they figure they can crank stuff out when and where they want. Even younger men put a premium on work-life balance -- kids or no kids. Corporations are already retooling to accommodate.
All of that gives women enormous power in the workplace. It's often untapped, and largely unrecognized today, but it's power that will be impossible to ignore in the coming decade.
Brenda Barnes, CEO of SaraLee, who quit a powerful role at PepsiCo to spend more time with her children, only to come back 12 years later as a top dog, told us it's a new world out there.
"Companies need to recognize that this kind of flexibility offers employers the ability to manage and balance their own careers and lives, which in turn improves productivity and employee morale," she said.
Barnes and other executives maintain this new way of thinking and working is all the more valuable in a recession — companies need to get creative and offer flexible schedules, four-day work weeks, and extended vacations as a way to avoid layoffs, save costs, and still reward employees. Many are already doing that.