There are, both socioeconomic and social psychological reasons for wives working. Moreover, these determinants or reasons are different for those in higher income families versus those in lower income families. It is important to know the reasons wives work, because it may help in understanding their consumer behavior patterns.
An important consideration for the marketer is whether working women behave as consumers in the same way as do their nonworking counterparts. In general, the answer is that there are some important distinctions between the two groups. For example, working women’s media behavior differs from that of non working women. They watch less television (particularly daytime) and read more magazines. Working women also spend somewhat more time listening to radio and reading newspapers.
Research results also show that working women respond differently to advertising and that their responses reflect their interest, lifestyle and usage patterns. For example, products and product categories with higher advertising recognition scores by working women include cigarettes, major appliances, personal hygiene products and hair products, passenger cars, pet supplies and surprisingly, soaps, cleaners and polishes. Working versus non-working women also exhibits some differences in product usage patterns. It should be noted, however, that for some durable goods and other products and services the existence of a working wife does not appear to be a determinant of whether the goods and services are purchased or of how much is spent, according to one recent study. Thus, though the wife’s earnings raise family income, families working wives do not spend any more or less frequently or heavily on some items than do families without working wives. It might also be expected that employed wives, who report greater time pressures than non-employed wives, should more intensively use strategies to economize on time (such as purchase of microwave ovens) but we find that income and life cycle stage are more salient determinants of time use than is employment status.
Mountains of statistical data could be cited regarding the changing role of women. However, what are some of the fundamental marketing implications suggested by these trends? The following list includes some of the more important ones:
1. Working women can justify economic expenditures for, and psychologically accept expensive appliances and household equipment such as microwave ovens and prepared foods, which may even reduce the wives roles in important household tasks.
2. Working wives are often unable to shop during regular retailing hours. Thy might prefer that sales be held in the evening.
3. Some shopping may be done by wives surrogates — daughters and sons. Shopping also becomes more of a shared husband and wife activity, or even a family venture, Saturdays, Sundays, and evenings become very important shopping times.
4. The distinction between men’s and women’s work in the home has blurred and a sense of shared household duties prevails. Appliances that formerly had an image of being a female appliance, such as a vacuum cleaner tend to take on a unisex image.
5. Working women place a premium on a youthful appearance and on the maintenance of self. Advancement in business is often associated with being young.
6. Working wives tend more to become equal decision makers in the home. This change is particularly noticeable among social classes where wives were much subordinated.
7. The availability of household service beyond the usual morning and afternoon hours, such as repair services during weekends will become increasingly important.
8. Price for some products may become less important tan convenience, availability, service and time savings.
One area of marketing that is likely to be strongly influenced by women’s changing roles is advertising. As one writer observes, if advertising to the new women is to persuade, it must treat women as intelligent adults who will respond to a reasonable and believable presentation of the product’s case. Many have been critical about the treatment of women in magazine advertisements over the thirty year period from 1955 to 1985 indicated movement toward more egalitarian role definitions but revealed that women continued to be shown in unrealistic and stereotypical roles.