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Holding up Half of the Sky: The New Women Consumers of Asia





Book: 'Holding up Half of the Sky: The New Women Consumers of Asia'

Author: Yuwa Hedrick-Wong

Publisher: John Wiley & Sons Inc, 2006


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Business strategist and economist Dr Yuwa Hedrick-Wong must be a brave man. In Holding up Half of the Sky he tackles a daunting question: What do women want? Even when this question is limited to the consumer domain, it’s a very tough one to answer.


Asia’s female consumers have obviously changed a lot during the past decade. Today they have more spending power and they are getting older. But which subgroups of these consumers have the greatest spending power? What are their demographics? How are they changing? What do they spend their money on? And of course, the ultimate question: What do they really want?


As Economic Advisor (Asia/Pacific) for MasterCard International, Hedrick-Wong is well-placed to tackle all these questions. He mines data from MasterCard and Asian Demographics to understand the new women consumers of Asia. But Holding up Half of the Sky isn’t just ‘advertising by ISBN’. It summarises a lot of useful – and often overlooked – consumer insights.


Hedrick-Wong believes that “no company can hope to be successful in Asia’s consumer markets without a deep understanding of the women consumer of Asia”. Few big companies would disagree. The problem is how to get that understanding. Holding up Half of the Sky adopts a conventional market research approach, dividing households into four broad segments: the young, the middle age married, empty nesters, and the elderly. Each segment is then split into several stages, giving nine key lifecycle stages.


Demographic data show that Asia is no longer a region characterised by fast-growing and young populations. The average age of the Chinese population was 33 in 2004 – but will rise to 44 by 2014. Amazingly, China will have a combined 238 million women in the empty nesters and elderly households segments in 2014. That represents a huge new consumer market.


But what do women really want? That obviously depends on their lifecycle stage, but there is an overall shift from buying basic necessities to discretionary spending. Asian women are spending more on dining out, travel, health spas, leisure activities and pampering themselves. They are also more likely to want a car and to have their own computer.


Underlying Hedrick-Wong’s analysis is a deep conviction that Asia is reaching a turning point as its economies mature. Consumer markets in the region are typically underdeveloped and a “consumption revolution” is needed as a new “growth locomotive”. Holding up Half of the Sky shows how to get on board.