Crushing Disparity: How Women Are Being Empowered by Digi-Tech

Patrick Foster

February 04, 2019

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Why Women Are Leading the Way in E-commerce

There are more than 11 million female-owned businesses in the United States; over double the number there were 20 years ago. Female-run businesses are growing at over twice the United States national average, and e-commerce is reaping the rewards by attracting some of the country's top talent.

Credit: Good Free Photos

Here's why women are leading the way in online retail.

Recommended reading: 2018 Women in Technology Hall of Fame

Women Are Digital Innovators

Patents might be male-dominated—with just 8% of patents listing a woman as the primary inventory—but digital transformation is helping to re-address the balance.

Over the course of the last two decades, patents including one or more women have increased at a higher rate than all other patents.

Empowering women in the digital age: WHERE DO WE STAND? has statistics showing:

  • Patents invented by women reached 8.4% of the total share in 2014
  • Patents made by female-only teams between 2010 and 2015 comprised just under 4% of the total number issued
  • Mixed female-male teams were responsible for 17% of all patents from 2010–2015

However, it's not just through patented inventions that women are innovating.

More and more women are starting their own businesses, and they're doing so at a greater success rate in the digital industry than their male counterparts—female tech startups on Kickstarter have a 65% success rate, as opposed to 35% for male tech startups.

Hedy Lamarr pioneered technology that has been incorporated into Bluetooth and Wi-Fi. Credit: Wikimedia

Rather than wait for their opportunity to succeed, women are taking their gift for innovation into the digital sphere, and one of the areas that is bringing them success is online selling.

Increased Rights and Access Means More Female Opps for Female Shops

Saudi Arabia isn't known for women's rights. Women are finally allowed to drive, but they still can't:

  • Swim in public
  • Be seen outside without an abaya
  • Enter public buildings with men
  • Make big decisions without their wali (male guardian)

However, Saudi women are embracing technology. And even in a regime this repressive, women are beginning to take the lead in online retail.

Saudi women have taken to e-commerce in a big way, using Danube Online to buy groceries via their smartphones. Almost 50% of Danube Online's shoppers are millennial women, and the numbers are growing.

But that's not it. Saudi Arabia's Vision 2030 wants women to drive the economy forward, and e-commerce is central to this. With Saudi female tech startups up by 144% in 2018, expect Saudi women to lead the way in e-commerce.

Saudi Arabia isn't an exception. The female economy is worth $18 trillion (USD), and everyone wants a piece of it. Big businesses in repressive countries want part of this economy, too. As women in these countries are granted access, they are demanding a say—emboldened by movements like #metoo and rising access to digital technology.

All of this is helping to create a global network for women. And the result? Women are being given the opportunity to buy into e-commerce, as consumers and business owners.

Women Own E-Commerce

E-commerce is a hugely successful industry, with its global sales reaching $2.290 trillion in 2017. But not only is it a Goliath of the retail world, it's also an industry that has helped empower female business owners.

Suzanne Sharp started her business, The Rug Company, with her husband Christopher Sharp in the 1990s by opening a small store on Malta's Qui-si-sana seafront. Fast forward to today, and The Rug Company has a successful online business and showrooms in New York, Los Angeles, Harrods in London, Dubai, and Cape Town, among others.

Sharp is at the higher end of the scale for online success, but there are an enormous number of women that have used e-commerce to empower themselves by starting their own businesses.

Waiiola Clothing is a store started by a Berkeley engineering major which specializes in female products. Among the many items sold by Waiiola are leggings, halterneck tops, rompers, and sweaters.

While there are plenty of other stores like Waiiola out in the e-commerce world, their number is precisely the point; the digital world has empowered women to be able to set up their own businesses in their spare time and scale up to success.

To find advice on how to use e-commerce to set up a business, the brilliant video below gives some simple steps on how to go from a woman with a great idea to a successful female business owner.

Credit: Max Pixel

Lots of High-Value Female E-Commerce Niches
Women aren't just leading the way in some e-commerce niches, they're crushing them. Pets are one of the top areas where women are taking the lead. And it's no surprise when you see these stats:

  • 58% of women have one or more pets
  • 59% of women let their pets roam freely
  • 62% of women allow their pets to sleep in their bed

Female tech companies have also been growing like crazy, and e-commerce is reaping the rewards. Women like Ana Wegbreit, founder of BuildRX, are running top businesses that improve the e-commerce storefronts, while ladies such as Danielle Schlowow, growth strategist at Multiplica, are leading the way in e-commerce UX and UI.

These are just some of the great industries where women are thriving. Fashion, health, and beauty are dominated by women, and many of the top LA businesses for sale are in these niches. Check out the video below for tips on finding the best e-commerce niche for you:

Internet of Things (IoT) Makes It Easier for Women to Connect

IoT has been around since 1982 when a Carnegie Mellon University-based Coke vending machine became the first appliance to be connected to the internet. However, it's the last few years in which IoT has truly come to the forefront of the digital world and helped to empower female business owners.

Joanne Moretti, chief marketing officer for Jabil, was clear when explaining the benefit of IoT: "The opportunities to improve customer experience and create new business models from IoT insights is boundless."

IoT has helped to empower countless female business owners; Chinese company
360 Fashion is one of the Internet of Things Institute's top female IoT startups. Headed by Anina Net, 360 Fashion used IoT to create a bridge between the world of fashion and technology.

IoT offers the chance not just for greater connectivity, but to empower female business owners in the same way that it has for Anina Net. Just make sure to take into account the privacy issues linked to GDPR before getting connected to IoT as failing to adhere to them will make your business short-lived.

The digital world has helped to narrow the gender gap that has existed since time immemorial, empowering women, and helping them to scale their business ambitions.

However, while progress has been made, there is still much work to be done before the playing field shifts to something approaching an equal balance. Icelanders are pioneers in this area with the island nation seeking to end the disparity between male and female pay by 2023.

But rather than waiting for the government to bring pay in line with male counterparts, use the opportunities afforded by the digital world, and smash the gender gap by starting a business.

Patrick Foster is a writer and e-commerce expert from Ecommerce Tips—an e-commerce blog that's full of tips, stats, tricks, and facts to help get your e-commerce business off the ground. Patrick is committed to making the world an equal place, one where business is gender blind. Check out the latest news on Twitter @myecommercetips.

Opinions expressed by the author are not necessarily those of WITI.

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