I have never really been a card-carrying feminist, nor has my gender been a barrier to my success in the public relations industry. But I've not been blind to the fact that a lot has changed in the last few decades, and I think Gloria Steinem was spot-on when she wrote years ago that we'd never solve the feminization of power until we solve the masculinity of wealth.

Well, I'd say we're just about there, because women are controlling the use of more money than at any point in U.S. history.

I was fascinated by these statistics:

* Senior women age 50 and older control net worth of $19 trillion and own more than three-fourths of the nation's financial wealth. - MassMutual Financial Group, 2007

* Over the next decade, women will control two-thirds of consumer wealth in the United States and be the beneficiaries of the largest transference of wealth in our country's history. Estimates range from $12 to $40 trillion. Many Boomer women will experience a double inheritance windfall, from both parents and husband. The Boomer woman is a consumer that luxury brands want to resonate with. - Claire Behar, Senior Partner and Director, New Business Development, Fleishman-Hillard New York

Marti Barletta, author of Marketing to Women, documented the following trends regarding women in the consumer marketplace:

* Women influence 95% of all purchases and control 80% of all household spending.

* Buying the "small stuff" has always been in the woman's domain. Part of her domestic duties as wife and mother have been to keep the family healthy, warm, and well-nourished. From the family meal to the family doctor, from shirts for her husband to shoes for her kids, chances are those choices have always been hers. What many marketers haven't caught onto yet, though, is that women's spending power now extends far beyond shoelaces and shirts.

* In the past, the big-ticket items like cars, insurance policies, and major appliances were historically bought by - and therefore marketed to - men. Things have changed! Nowadays, women need their own cars, their own computers, their own cell phones, and their own investment accounts - among many other new big-ticket items - and so manufacturers are facing a whole new market.

So it's clear that women are gaining ground in controlling consumer purchases, and savvy marketers are taking note. For instance, have you seen any Home Depot commercials lately? Ten years ago, it was all lumber, power tools and men moving large things. Today's current campaign features a married couple looking for light bulbs who ultimately wind up getting advice from a Home Depot salesman on how to redecorate their patio. A little less testosterone, for sure.

Something else struck me, and although it's minor, it's very telling. About 15 years ago, most cars came with a courtesy mirror only on the passenger side, never on the driver's side. The assumption was that the men drove, while the women sat in the passenger seat, freshening up their makeup. Today, most cars come with courtesy mirrors on both sides, standard. Since I can't recall the last time I didn't do my makeup in the car, that little mirror on the visor beats the heck out of juggling a compact mirror and mascara tube in one hand, and the mascara wand in the other. Clearly carmakers finally caught on that women drive as many car purchases as men, if not more.

At the end of the day, whether you market cars, power tools or anything in between, if you ignore women as you craft your message and go to market, you're likely losing sales and steam. Some women are steering the boat independently, some are decision makers in navigating it, and regardless we need to be aware of their influence.

Author's Bio: 

For 20 years Marsha Friedman has been a leading authority on public relations as CEO of EMSI. Go to www.emsincorporated.com to signup to receive her free weekly PR Tips today! More resources for authors can also be found at www.publicitythatworks.com. Or call at 727-443-7115 begin_of_the_skype_highlighting              727-443-7115      end_of_the_skype_highlighting, ext. 202, or email at mfriedman@emsincorporated.com.