How would the world be if women stopped shopping for a day? While the scenario sounds incredibly remote, on October 19th 85 Broads is putting this idea into action. On Tuesday, October 19th, thousands of women across the United States will participate in a ‘buycott’ initiated by 85 Broads, an independent women’s network of 4,500 current and former Goldman Sachs professionals, as well as women MBAs from the leading graduate business schools and colleges, and women professionals from over 450 companies. 85 Broads has urged its members to leave checkbooks and credit cards at home that day, as a symbolic gesture to celebrate women’s buying power and to demand greater economic power.
As women’s buying power has increased over time, the economy has become more and more driven by women’s consumption. Currently, American women control almost $4 trillion in annual consumer spending. We are not just talking about Manolo Blahnik shoes here. Women purchase nearly two out of every three cars, control 50% of the wealth of the United States, and take 50% of all business trips.
Through the ‘buycott’, 85 Broads founder Janet Hanson, CEO of Milestone Capital Management, hopes to celebrate the progress and increasing empowerment of women. At the same time, the celebration will also attempt to help speed up the “glacial pace of change for working women around the world.” The ‘buycott’ hopes to illuminate the gap between women’s buying power and their under-representation in executive suites and board rooms.
A study by Catalyst, a leading research and advisory organization focused on expanding opportunities for women in the workplace, showed that only 8 CEO’s in the Fortune 500 are women. Women also represent only 13.6% of board directors, and 5.2% of all top-earning corporate officers. In addition, women represent only 8% of European board directorships, according to ParisPWN.
Hanson hopes that the ‘buycott’ will also raise awareness of the fast-growing number of women owned businesses and their importance. Hanson commented, “even though women-owned businesses are the fastest growing segment of the entrepreneurial sector, women’s access to investment capital still represents just a fraction of the total dollars being invested in start-up companies globally.”
Beyond the celebration of women’s increasing contribution to the economy, the focus of this special day will also be on rallying together women’s resources to make a difference in the world. Hanson advised 85 Broads members “instead of shopping, go for a walk in the park, write a letter to a friend, enjoy a museum, or help someone in need… The money we don’t spend during our one day (during the ‘buycott’) will be used to underscore the importance of investing in future generations of women.”
The organization plans to make contributions from the “saved money” and is contributing $12,000 to build schools and educate women in Vietnam through Room to Read, an education non-profit.
Hanson also highlights that the power of the network is a grassroots effort, and it is a power built on the desire to make connections: “Our 4,500 members will be joined by thousands more women and the networks they belong to, in leaving our checkbooks and credit cards at home for just one day as a symbolic gesture. We are encouraging women to join us at one of the ‘buycott’ celebration events that will be held in New York, London, San Francisco and many other cities. Instead of shopping, spend the time reflecting on how you can bring about positive change in the work place and the market place in partnership with other women!”
On campus, 85 Broads has partnered with the Women’s Students Association to celebrate women’s buying power, and will host a celebratory cocktail/networking event (the party’s ingredients will be purchased the day before the event to avoid spending on the day of the ‘buycott’). A number of women’s networks have been invited to this event, from the Sloan Women in Business, to The Network at Harvard, a network organization of women currently at one of the various graduate schools of Harvard University.
Co-organizer Sarah Kauss (HBS ’03) reflects on the initiative, “while we realize that our one day ‘buycott’ will not materially affect bottom line performance of a single company or even the economy as a whole, it is meant to be a symbolic gesture. We might not move markets, but we will surely begin to change mind sets. Action comes from reflection; only by first increasing our mindfulness of the facts – that women have achieved purchasing power parity with their male counterparts, yet are eons away from being equally represented in the upper echelons of management – can we then become personally accountable for championing such change.
“We don’t have all the answers to easily alleviating the disparity of women in positions of power in business management today. By attending the celebration, women have an opportunity to discuss and debate these issues with one another – and this is how creative solutions will be found. This event will increase awareness of the facts, but even more importantly, will convene bright, young minds to devise ways to change the status quo. If we aren’t the group to begin the small trickle of change to later bring about a sweeping flood – I don’t know who is!”