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职业女性将拯救世界

来源:天星 更新日期:2009-10-10 点击:

A while ago, when the financial markets were collapsing and people were carrying their offices home in cardboard boxes, I remember wondering whether women could have saved us from this disaster. Not by refraining from their reckless spending habits (the shoes, the bags, the credit-card bills), as so often characterised by popular culture; but from their natural tendency towards caution.

Women can be hardnosed business vixens when they want, but they are also mothers, nurturers, nest-builders. When it comes to the big stuff, they are much more risk-averse than men, whose approach (especially in competitive environments such as high finance) can have a dangerous gung-ho element to it. Might more women in senior City jobs have resulted in a less reckless approach, and saved more people from taking risks that they — and the country — could ill afford?

I even wondered about this in print — and found myself on the receiving end of a surprising amount of (male) vitriol, chiefly centred around the idea that, being a ... [insert offensive euphemism for a female here], what the hell did I know? Luckily, I no longer need to explain myself because other, much cleverer, people have done it for me. According to a new study by the Boston Consulting Group (BCG), working women are going to save the world. That’s right, we ladies with our pretty pink brains and not a pair of cojones, large or otherwise, between us: we’re the future.

As the post-recession global economy struggles, dazed, to its feet, it is the women who are extending the metaphorical smelling-salts. BCG estimates that in the next five years $5 trillion of female-earned income will flood the world’s economy. Forget China, or India: women are the emerging markets.

Worldwide, women are earning more, and there are more of them doing it. They don’t earn as much as men, of course; but that gap is narrowing, not least because the more women successfully enter the workplace, the more they tend to employ other women and the more fairly they pay them (it worked for the boys, now it’s our turn). The implications are huge. What we’re looking at here is the next wave of feminism, with women truly empowered where it matters most: their purses.

The irony of this next phase in the revolution being driven by such a seemingly banal activity as shopping will not be lost on those first-wave feminists, who fought hard to prove that the female brain is capable of so much more than just sourcing a perfect roll of curtain fabric. But, inevitably, the by-product of women earning more is going to be women spending more. It’s what that leads to, namely seismic shifts in consumer trends, that will have a long-term effect on our culture. One of the most interesting side-effects to watch will be how — and if — this shift in gender spending power effects manufacturing and service trends.

Will it mean less booze and fewer fags and fast cars? Fewer betting shops and flat-screen TVs? Will the bottom fall out of the takeaway kebab market? Maybe someone will start designing dashboards with somewhere sensible to put your handbag; or produce a piece of electronic equipment that isn’t a nasty shade of grey with a horrible electric blue LCD screen.

Who knows, the Lakeland catalogue might go global, bringing the delights of silicone bakeware and time-saving apple-corers to a grateful world. And just maybe someone will pass legislation that allows working women to employ someone to pick up their children from school without being subject to the same idiotic rules and regulations as a business. If proof were needed of how government consistently underestimates the economic potential of the female workforce, it’s that chauffeurs remain tax-deductible, whereas childcare isn’t.

Crucially, it may now be time for everyone to stop being so dismissive about so-called frivolous industries, such as fashion and beauty, just because they are driven by women. Why should buying a new winter coat be any less serious than, say, choosing a new car? Jeremy Clarkson, for example, is a national hero, whereas poor Alexandra Shulman (the brilliant Editor of UK Vogue) seems to spend all her time apologising for her existence.

The absurdity of this double standard (we want your cash, ladies, but we reserve the right to patronise you) is exemplified in an equally absurd piece of cinematic delight, The September Issue. In it Anna Wintour (Editor of US Vogue) exceeds all expectations as the dominatrix of American fashion. But there are a few wobbly moments. You can tell by the way she reacts to certain questions that Wintour still harbours a very female insecurity about the nature of what she does. Namely, that her career is somehow less valid than those of other members of her family — such as her brother, who she implies is a heavyweight political reporter, or her father, who edited a regional newspaper. Even Wintour, the queen of the runway, secretly wonders whether she shouldn’t be doing something more worthwhile. As if being the most powerful person in a multibillion-dollar market wasn’t, actually, that significant.

As New York hands over the fashion baton to London this week, there will no doubt be plenty of talk about recession chic. London being famously the most “maverick” of the four show cities, some wag will probably send the models down the runway dressed as zombie bankers, or Credit Crunch cereal packets. Inevitably there’ll be a lather about the age/size of the models and a girl with an imperceptibly fleshy bottom will be praised for being “real”, despite actually being a size 6.

But behind all this hoo-ha there is something invaluable: an industry that, for all its faults and quirks and paradoxes, has a uniquely keen sense of the needs of the female consumer. And that, if the clever kids at BCG are to be believed, is something we should all take more seriously.

记得不久之前,当金融市场崩溃,人们抱着硬纸盒从办公室打包回家的时候,我就在思考,是否女性可以将我们从这场灾难拯救出来呢?这当然不是因为她们卓越的花钱能力(买鞋子,买包包,把信用卡刷爆),其实这都是流行文化的标签而已;真正的原因是,她们天生小心谨慎。

女人可以做商界的铁娘子——只要她愿意,但是她们同时也要做一个母亲,要养育孩子,要照顾家庭。当面临重大决定时,她们更倾向于规避风险;而男人则不同,尤其是在竞争激烈的环境,比如高级融资,他们更可能采取危险的激进手段。如果有更多的女性担任高层,是否会采取更稳妥的方式,救更多的人于水火,从而使我们及我们的国家免于承担危险的后果呢?

我甚至把我的想法写了下来,结果却收到了数量惊人的冷嘲热讽,哦,当然都是男士们的。他们的意见主要是,像我这样一个XXX(这里可用任意一个对女性的贬称替换),懂什么啊!幸运的是,我不用再亲自解释了,已经有比我聪明得多的人替我解释了。根据波士顿咨询公司(BCG)的研究报告,职业女性将拯救世界。没错儿,就是我们这些姑娘们,我们才是未来。

金融海啸后的全球经济,四顾茫然,踉跄前行,是女性让它嗅到了一点方向。BCG预测,在未来五年,将有五万亿美元的女性收入席卷全球经济。不要再念叨中国、印度了,女性才是正在崛起的新兴市场。

全世界都是如此,越来越多的女性挣着越来越多的钱。当然,她们还是没有男人们挣得多,但是这个差距正在不断缩小,特别是当越来越多的女性事业成功时,她们更倾向于雇佣女性,并且提供更合理的薪资(过去男人们就是这样做的,不过,现在轮到我们了)。这将带来巨大的影响。展现在我们眼前的是新一轮的女性主义浪潮,而且这次她们将掌控最重要的资源:她们的购买力。

女性主义的先行者们曾经艰苦奋斗,就是为了证明女人的脑子也可以思考,而不是仅仅用于寻找一匹完美的窗帘布料。不过讽刺的是,推动下一个历史进程的,恰恰是购物这一类看上去很庸俗的事情。女性收入增加将不可避免的导致女性消费上升,市场消费导向也将经历翻天覆地的变化,这对我们的文化将产生长远的影响。这种消费能力的性别转变又将如何影响制造业和服务业呢?我们不妨拭目以待。

这是否意味着酒精、香烟、跑车的产量会减少?不会再有那么多的彩票经销点和平板电视?大排档夜市就此销声匿迹?也许会有人开始设计适合放手包的汽车仪表盘;或者生产一个没有丑陋的灰色外壳和难看的蓝色液晶屏的电器。

谁知道呢?雷克兰的邮购目录可能会走向国际,带来硅酮耐热烘焙器和节时苹果去核器,让全世界顶礼膜拜。也许有人可以通过相关法律,允许职业女性雇人去学校接孩子,而不是在愚蠢的公司规定和照顾孩子之间左右为难。如果需要证据证明政府如何一直低估女性劳力的经济潜力,就看看司机们如何得以继续减税,而幼儿看护则没有。

重要的是,那些所谓的浮华产业,比如时尚和美容,仅仅因为它们是由女性主宰的,就一直为人们所无视。也许这一切该到此为止了。凭什么买一件新的冬衣就比不上选一辆新车来得重要呢?Jeremy Clarkson【译注:英国著名主持人,以主持汽车节目《极速飞车》出名】是国家英雄,而可怜的Alexandra Shulman(才华横溢的英国版《时尚》杂志主编)好像一辈子都在为她的存在而道歉。

“我们想赚你们的钱,姑娘们,但是我们保留轻视你们的权利,”这种荒谬的双重标准在《九月刊》这部电影中得到了最好的例证。Anna Wintour,美国《时尚》杂志的主编,在片中表现出名副其实的时尚女魔头作风,但是她也有心虚的时候。在某些问题的处理方式上,你就可以看出,对于她的职业本质,Wintour仍然表现出十分女性化的不安全感。比如说,她的事业似乎没有她其他家庭成员的那样重要,就像她的哥哥,她暗示说他是一个重量级的政治记者,还有她的父亲,是一家地区报纸的编辑。即使是Wintour,统治T型台的女皇,也无法不怀疑自己是否可以做些更有价值的事情。而在一个价值数十亿美元的市场上呼风唤雨,显然不算在内。

随着本周纽约将时尚接力棒传递到伦敦,不景气时髦无疑会成为最热门的话题。作为四大时尚之都中最“特立独行”的伦敦,届时T台上说不定会有模特被打扮成呆瓜银行家,或者穿了一身麦片盒子,美其名曰信贷紧缩。不可避免的,模特们的年纪和尺寸又会有水分,而某个姑娘则会因为“真实”被赞扬,因为她的臀部略微有一些肉,尽管事实上她也只穿6号衣服而已。

但是表面的喧嚣和质疑也无法掩盖这个行业难以估算的内在价值:尽管它充斥着谬误、古怪和矛盾,它却能够独到而敏锐地捕捉到女性消费者的需求。如果我们可以相信BCG的那些聪明人的话,这就是我们需要更加严肃认真地看待的问题了。

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