Those of us who pay attention to marketing trends have all probably heard the term "SoLoMo" by now. Companies are encouraged to appeal to a hyper-connected and technologically savvy, new consumer base through the use of social, local and mobile applications. Seems like a no-brainer. What entrepreneur wouldn't want to utilize sites like Facebook and take advantage of the ever-progressing and near-universal use of mobile technology to promote their businesses? The problem is that the SoLoMo is missing something that is in many respects also a no-brainer. The Wo(men)! There is more.
Women are the savviest of savvy tech junkies, whether they know it or not. Consider the illuminating data compiled by Aileen Lee in her March 20, 2011, TechCrunch post, "Why Women Rule the Internet." In it she states,
Women are not only outnumbering men in social media usage, but they are spending more time on the social sites that they visit.
Comscore, Nielsen, MediaMetrix and Quantcast studies all show women are the driving force of the most important net trend of the decade: the social web. Comscore says women are the majority of users of social networking sites and spend 30 percent more time on these sites than men; mobile social network usage is 55 percent female according to Nielsen.
The importance of women consumers to businesses is only amplified when we take into account that women also control family budgets -- the purse strings. Lee also tackles this point:
These are profound numbers. Women are fueling the economy as we know it.
In e-commerce, female purchasing power is also pretty clear. Sites like Zappos, Groupon, Gilt Groupe, Etsy, Pinterest and Diapers are all driven by a majority of female customers. According to Gilt Groupe, women are 70 percent of the customer base and they drive 74 percent of revenue. And 77 percent of Groupon's customers are female according to their site.
So if we are such avid users and are socially connected, then why are we not among the founders and the leaders of the companies that serve us? I publish Modern DC Business Magazine and in our latest issue we covered the burgeoning technology startup scene in Washington D.C. This year, I was also invited to be a part of a private group of hand selected CEOs that represent the technology community of Washington D.C. While I did meet women who are leaders in their companies, our numbers in boardrooms sadly did not mirror our dominance on the web. I am unfortunately a minority as a publisher and technology startup founder.
Recently, I was a part of a startup pitch contest at one of the most prestigious law firms in the D.C., and the room was filled with Angel investors and venture capitalists, along with 12 companies' founders eager to score the cash they needed to catapult them into mainstream success. As I quietly sat in my chair waiting for the presentations to start, a man, who upon making eye contact with me exclaimed: "Wow, we don't see too many women at these events!" How illuminating, I thought. But he was right. I was one of the few women present at the event. One of the women presenting entrepreneurs could not hide her excitement when she saw me in the audience. Yes, another one of us.
At risk of sounding too dramatic, I couldn't help but draw similarities to a bygone era when companies were encouraged to sell products to minorities but not hire them into leadership positions. You obviously can't mandate companies to hire women into their executive teams or flick a switch and have women spontaneously establish technology companies. But things can be done now to ensure that future generations of women will have access to the highest levels of success in the boardrooms of America. Encouraging young girls to enter the sciences and entrepreneurship early could be a good start. But there needs to be an overall shift in the way we think about women in leadership before any reform can actually take root and be meaningful.
Companies too, can make a difference, and can do so in the short term rather than waiting for a generational shift in priorities. SoLoMo companies can begin hiring smart and qualified women into leadership roles to help better communicate and connect to the women who keep these companies afloat. It is time to be an "uncool" company if your boardroom doesn't represent your consumer's demographic representation. That would be a good start, and who knows, it may perhaps serve as a smart strategy in other industries as well.