Beyoncé's claim that women run the world isn't far off if you look at global purchasing power and influence. Research from Girlpower Marketing found that women account for 85% of all consumer purchases. They are frequently gatekeepers, responsible for making decisions about which products and services to purchase that best meet their needs and those of their families.
So it's not surprising that in business, women entrepreneurs often have a heightened sense of market needs and opportunities. After all, they've effectively been trained to seek solutions to problems they and those around them face.
"I think if women are better at spotting market needs, then it really comes down to the fact that women are the ones who make the purchasing decisions," says Jess Dang, founder of Cook Smarts online meal plan service. "Because so much of the 'invisible labor' falls to us—from meal planning to vacation planning to making doctors' appointments—we experience a lot more challenges on our time." Consequently, women are quick to recognize products and services that help them get more done in less time.
Dang also observes that women are often better able to generalize from their own experience, whereas "males tend to have a more 'I don't need this, so why would anyone need this?' type of mentality." That's what she experienced when initially pitching Cook Smarts to potential engineering partners.
Robyn Flint, founding owner of a real estate rehab company and insurance specialist at US Insurance Agents, has a slightly different take. "Women entrepreneurs are better than men at spotting market needs because they are born nurturers. That means women are able to find a need and creatively come up with a way to meet it. This isn't a super spidey sense. It's just the way women are wired," she says.
"Men are also good at spotting market needs, but from a different point of view," Flint notes. "Men are generally not nurturing by nature but can get it done from a logistical standpoint. They are hunters and gatherers, so they may hunt for solutions to problems in generic and basic ways."
"We are seriously overlooked and underestimated, and I use that to my advantage," says Camille Finan, serial entrepreneur and host of the Remodel Your Life (RYL) podcast. "I listen and take notes and think about how I can solve a problem that everyone else is missing. And because no one thinks to watch what I'm doing, I have a longer runway to get into the market."
That willingness to quietly study the market has big payoffs. "We are around lots of different groups and see things that others might wait years to notice," Finan says. "We are in mom groups, selling cookies, going to church, listening to our husbands talk about their jobs, gossiping with our neighbors, going to yoga, and on and on. We 'see' things that are not working and notice them at a granular level."
Awareness of their surroundings
Christine Telyan, founder of London-based tech startup UENI, says, "I think women possess certain instincts that enable us to spot business opportunities quickly. As a woman, I'm always scanning the landscape for what's missing. I think this stems from the fact that, from a young age, we're trained to be aware of our surroundings and identify anything that isn't quite right—sometimes as a matter of safety. This 'screening' ability allows us to spot gaps quickly."
This constant scanning of the market ultimately led her to spot a need. "Simply questioning why I couldn't find a local dentist for my husband or book a [physical] for myself led me to develop a tech solution that allows local businesses to be found online," Teylan says.
Ultimately, this skill of recognizing market gaps and new business opportunities may come down to socialization. "As wives and mothers, we spend much of our time worrying about taking care of our loved ones," Flint says. "We plan out our days around our families to make sure their needs are met. So finding a need in the community and creating a way to meet the need is natural for most women."