Friday 18 October 2019 5:46 am

Women are starting businesses and buying their own drones

Kate Andrews is associate director at the Institute of Economic Affairs.

I don’t find stereotypes pegged to each generation particularly helpful. They’re usually philosophical, vague, or a bit rude.

Sure, “the millennials”, my generation, tend to job-hop a bit, but the labour market is much more flexible than it used to be. And apparently we complain too much – but if our parents and grandparents had been priced out of the housing market, they might have kicked off too.

So I’m sceptical of headlines that generalise about a particular generation. Nevertheless, data-driven research can certainly provide insight on behaviour. And in an ironic twist, it appears that Generation Z – born between 1997 and 2015 – don’t like stereotyping either.

According to a new study from shopping price comparison site, young female shoppers are “defying gender stereotypes” through their consumption habits, purchasing traditionally male-dominated products and gadgets.

Out of six product categories which have historically appealed to the male market – including smartwatches, drones, and power tools – “Gen Z women were revealed to be the biggest shoppers, when compared to women from the X, Y and Baby Boomer generations”.

This interest by young women not only indicates a change in attitude towards the products, but as idealo’s Katy Phillips noted, it also shows that women are becoming more interested in what we’re constantly told are male-dominated fields, like IT and technology.

Obviously, this change in the consumer habits of young people is not quite enough to declare the genders truly equal. But it struck me to be an important reminder that our narrative around cultural issues, especially relating to women, isn’t always in line with the reality.

Consider the gender pay gap. The consensus is still that it is a result of discrimination and sexism, and must be tackled from such an angle. 

Rarely is it noted that women between the ages of 22 and 40 have a negligible pay gap with men – and, indeed, that there is a part-time pay gap in favour of women. It isn’t until meaningful time is taken off work, usually for childcare, and career trajectories of men and women substantially diverge that we see significant pay differences.

Or take women in business. Much of our rhetoric revolves around the lack of investment in female entrepreneurs. No doubt there is clear discrepancy in the data, and this isn’t something to casually gloss over. 

But by spending so much time focused on the difficulties for women-led startups, we risk feeding the perception that they don’t perform as well as male-led equivalents.

Research just last week from The Female Founders Forum, based in The Entrepreneurs’ Network, debunked some of these myths, showing that not only has the share of funding to women-led businesses doubled in under a decade, but that once they received an initial investment, these startups were just as likely to raise additional rounds of funding, compared to non-female-founded firms.

We need to speak more openly and honestly about the issues that impact women. But it would be a grave mistake to leave out the changes happening rapidly around us, which tend to illustrate a much more optimistic picture in all walks of life. 

From pay, to work, to what we pop into our Amazon baskets, it’s clear that women aren’t letting traditional structures stand in their way.

Main image credit: Getty

City A.M.'s opinion pages are a place for thought-provoking views and debate. These views are not necessarily shared by City A.M.