Simon Moriarty
Simon is the EMEA Director of Trends, responsible for content, client servicing and commercial support across the region.

In celebration of International Women’s Day (8 March), the Mintel Trends team of consumer experts have explored the roles that women play in society, the workforce, and the home, and predicted how that will evolve over the next decade within the context of the Mintel Trend Drivers

Here, in the third and final post in the series, we explore the role of women in Europe, the Middle East, and Africa through the lens of identity, and how the shifting consumer landscape will see the role and status of women continue to develop.

The Mintel Trend Driver ‘Identity’ is perhaps the most relevant when it comes to defining individual consumers and the constantly evolving understanding of what we – as consumers, humans, community members, etc. – go through to make sense of ourselves and our place in the world around us.

At the same time, we are seeing a growing desire to push beyond traditional boundaries. The fluidity of language itself is coming to the fore as new labels of identification, and expectations within those, become more important. While we are witnessing the development of gender-neutrality, we are also seeing a shift in the understanding of the rights and needs of individuals within traditional gender groups. 

Sign of the times

After putting this topic firmly in the spotlight with the likes of gender pay gaps and women’s rights, the EMEA region is showing signs of significant cultural change. Nothing exemplifies this more, perhaps, than reform in Saudi Arabia, where a World Bank Report places Saudi Arabia first when it comes to gender equality among the GCC (Gulf Corporation Council, including Qatar, the UAE and Bahrain among other Arab states in the Persian Gulf). More women are reportedly entering the workforce in Saudi Arabia, and the World Bank ranks it the top reformer and most improved out of 190 countries.

Away from the Gulf, London is playing host to coding classes for girls run by Microsoft, designed to encourage creativity through technology.  Apple, too, is following a similar path – the company’s ‘She Creates’ sessions are built around positive skills for women and hosted in Apple Stores across the UK.

The two tech giants exemplify the need for organizations to be more open and encourage the development of their customers and future customers – not just because they feel they ‘should’, but because by bringing individuals into the fold, brands can create long-term loyalty. As people juggle all the different facets of their identities, brands that step in and provide support, guidance, or a platform will find success. 

Smaller innovative brands are also emerging. XBYX is a German online platform focused on providing products and information for women going through menopause. Here, again, openness and creating a community around specific needs means that people feel that the brand is speaking to them, as women, and as individuals with specific requirements and priorities.

And we are likely to see more of these types of platforms develop, providing opportunities for established brands to take stock and look at how they can create more egalitarian communication and product development. 

Have their voices heard

More than ever, we are seeing individuals wanting to have their voices heard, and while this is not restricted to gender, the rights of women in the workplace, in the home, represented on-screen, and in the media can not be ignored or rerouted. Change is happening and while individuals are pushing for this, they continue to need support from the brands that they are engaged with. 

Encouraging girls and women to learn new skills, or to feel they are no longer bound by traditional definitions or rigid expectations of their gender in every walk of life, is something that should already be the norm. As we move into a more uncertain world (possibly more uncertain than ever before), there is a need for this norm to be maintained to provide opportunities and create equality in every market.

Commercially, it makes sense to facilitate this. But from a more holistic, ethical standpoint, gender inequality is an untenable social blight. The power of women, as individuals and as communities, is something that can not be pushed to one side.

Read ‘The role of women in 2030’ series in full with part one about women in Asia here and part two about women in the Americas here.