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Beyond the Headlines: For Some Male CEOs, the Biggest Challenge Is Their Customers

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Beyond the Headlines: For Some Male CEOs, the Biggest Challenge Is Their Customers

Despite the fact that 85 percent of all brand purchases — a total of approximately $7 trillion annually, or more than half of the American GDP — are made by women, men still dominate the leadership, branding and product development decisions at most consumer brands. At advertising agencies, a paltry 3 percent of all creative directors are women, according to the Marketing to Women Conference, and men also firmly dominate investment decisions in consumer-facing ideas at venture capital firms.

This fundamental disconnect between the men who lead companies and the female consumers who buy their products has been a hot topic in the media this month, with features in the Wall Street Journal and Inc. The Journal offers insights from Tracy Sun, co-founder of peer-to-peer fashion resale app Poshmark while Inc. profiles Nicole Shariat Farb, founder of do-it-yourself marketplace Darby Smart.

“I happen to be in a world that’s run by men, and yet Poshmark is all about women,” Sun told Inc. “The grind was talking to the umpteenth potential investor . . . and they would be like, ‘I don’t understand why people would want to sell stuff from their closet. I don’t get women.’ Well, you’re not supposed to get it. It’s women that need to get it.”

It begs a bigger question, about not only why aren’t more women in charge of making decisions about targeting, marketing to, and developing products for other women, but about how many consumer products and brands didn’t happen because male investors didn’t “get it,” leading to fewer successfully funded female founders.

The good news is that Forbes recently shared 11 Reasons Why 2014 Will Be a Breakout Year for Female Entrepreneurs. Echoing the insight from Sun, Farb, and their male co-founders, Forbes also notes that the number of $10-million-plus women-owned firms has increased by 57 percent in 2013 — a growth rate nearly 50 percent more than $10-million-plus firms overall — and that 13 percent of all VC deals in the first half of 2013 went to women (a jump of 20 percent over 2012, according to Pitchbook).

Maybe it’s not that women aren’t as ready for leadership as men, but that (as 49 percent of respondents noted in our PreparedU survey) they just aren’t given the opportunity.

April Lane is a freelance writer.

Learn more about Bentley’s PreparedU Project, which examines challenges facing millennial workers, the companies that employ them and the colleges and universities that prepare them.

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FEATURE STORY

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by Bentley University November 11, 2014
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