The Mom-ocracy: The Rise of a New American Matriarchy

We recently published an interesting study on women in America, and the rise of a new matriarchy.  Details are below…


Retail Study Uncovers Cautious Optimism in Spending Habits of American Women

Results Suggest Potential for Rebound in 2009 for Female-Driven Economy

Nearly 80 Percent of Women Say Their Opinion Drives Family Financial Decisions; Two-thirds Believe 2009 Will Be a Better Year than 2008

New York, Feb. 12, 2009 – A new national study sheds light on the power of women in the retail sector.  With almost four-fifths of women driving family financial decisions, the study shows that women are shopping smarter and saying goodbye to impulse buys.  Understanding today’s successful, resourceful female and her purchasing motivations will be key for retailers looking to make the cash register ring in 2009. 

The two-phase study, “Women, Power & Money – The Shift to the Female-Driven Economy,” was conducted for Fleishman-Hillard International Communications by Harrison Group, a marketing and research consulting firm.  More than 1,600 women participated in the study during early September and November 2008.

According to the study, which outlines trends in purchasing, describes the modern matriarchy and details how women define success, the economic crisis is hitting home with American women; specifically: 

  • More than half (59%) say they are worse off financially than they were a year ago
  • Almost the same number (57%) worry that they will run out of money
  • Most women (83%) are budgeting expenditures more carefully than they used to


Despite this, however, they are feeling financially optimistic:  

  • Two-thirds (64%) believe that 2009 will be a better year financially than 2008
  • A full 95% of all American women feel they will “make it” through the recession


“It’s clear from this research that we are now living in a ‘mom-ocracy’ – women are setting the agenda,” said Nancy Seliger, president, U.S. East region, at Fleishman-Hillard, the global communications firm that commissioned the study.  “We believe the most successful marketers will address concerns of the spouse, the children, and even friends of women.  When these individuals are well informed, it is easier for women to build consensus within their families.”

“Women today have made a transition from home to the work place and back,” said Jim Taylor, Ph.D., Vice-Chairman of the Harrison Group. “They have created a self-reliant, thoughtful persona that cuts across the social ladder, career choices and geography.  These women run the economy, run the American family, run the checkbook and, most important, they run a new spirit of caring and competence. It’s an amazing story.”

Among the Key Findings:

American Women as Chief Purchasing Officers
Every single survey respondent maintains that they have significant input into household decisions; and more than half (59%) claim to be the sole decision maker on most issues.

  • 91% feel they manage their family’s quality of life
  • 75% are the primary purchasers of groceries and home staples
  • 55% are largely responsible for paying household bills
  • About half are the primary breadwinner or share responsibility for that role


When it comes to budgeting for the family, women are almost evenly split (47% v. 49%) on whether or not they own or share that responsibility.  Spouses, however, do play an important role in purchasing major household appliances (77%), choosing a brand of automobile (79%), deciding when to eat out (72%) or what to watch on television (69%). 

America’s women are unanimous about the one household duty that remains the exclusive responsibility of the spouse:  Mowing the lawn (46%). 

Recession-Proofing through Intelligent Shopping
Eighty percent of women say that their purchase decisions are more considered than ever.  Interestingly, this number increased 7% during the three-month period from September to November 2008.  As a result of the current economic environment, women are adjusting how and where they shop, namely: 

  • 86% are delaying purchases until items go on sale
  • 79% plan to cut back on “special occasion” gift-giving
  • 55% are spending less on eating out than they did last year
  • 47% are more likely to use coupons than previously
  • 44% are purchasing generic brands more often than they used to
  • 41% are more likely to pay with cash than on credit
  • Less than half (49%) are shopping at malls; just over one-quarter (26%) are buying from stand-alone retail stores; and 33% are ordering from catalogs

“Retailers may look at these numbers and cringe,” commented Seliger, “but family cost controls give women the confidence that they will be able to manage through these tough times.” 

The respondents admitted that charting their financial course over the coming months will be stressful.  To cope, most plan to spend more time with friends and family (53%), exercise (53%) and eat healthier (49%).

Saying “Goodbye” to Impulse Buys
When asked about their last purchase across a variety of price points ($100 to $499, $500 to $999 and more than $1,000), women said that prior to purchase, they conduct their own due diligence via Internet-based research and in-store comparison shopping. Specifically:

  • 65% of women researched online an item valued at $500 or more, while 61% researched online an item valued at $100 to $499
  • Approximately half, across all price points, comparison shopped online to prevent being taken advantage of
  • Approximately half, across all price points, shopped around at several brick and mortar stores to find the best pricing


Interestingly, 81% of women continue to purchase only trusted brands.  Women agree, however, that brand preferences are less about status and more about quality (95%), craftsmanship (93%) and reputation for service (91%).

Success and the Resourceful Woman
The vast majority of women surveyed (90%) feel successful; and 60% feel very successful.  In addition to feeling successful, most women are happy.  On a 10-point scale (with 10 being “extremely happy”), 92% rated themselves a six or higher; and 61% rated themselves an eight, nine or 10. 

Happiness, however, doesn’t mean having it all.  Of the 61% who describe themselves as extremely/very happy, only a little more than one-third (35%) of those surveyed claim to have achieved their life goals.  Despite the fact that these women feel they have more to accomplish, only 19% say they are stressed.  

Today’s woman is confident and engaged in a self-defined pursuit of self-satisfaction:

  • 87% consider themselves resourceful
  • 85% are the principal family decision maker; and 82% feel highly influential
  • 76% have always maintained their own bank account
  • Less than one-fifth (17%) look to their friends to decide what they should be doing
  • 83% rate family as their top priority; 67% say love is their primary concern; 66% place greatest importance on children; 60% say travel is their passion; and 59% ranked marriage and reading equally as their greatest source of joy in life


For more information, please contact:
Jodi Bannerman,
212.871.3020 ext. 107 (office); 202.577.5798 (mobile);


Survey Methodology

The research involves two distinct studies with the same respondent group of 1,600 women.  Survey 1 was conducted in two parts during August-September 2008 via online interviews with a U.S. and Canadian representative group of women.  Roughly 1,900 of 4,000 women contacted agreed to participate in the pre-screening survey.  Nearly all respondents completed an additional 35-minute online survey.  Respondents are 21 to 70 years-old, with an annual household income of at least $25,000.  African-American, Hispanic and wealthy women were “bucket-sampled” to reflect the actual population.  Survey 2 was conducted November 5 – 7, 2008, and involved
602 respondents from Survey 1.  The dual survey approach allowed for more survey content while preventing surveyor fatigue. 

The margin for error in the master survey (Survey 1) is +/- 2%, and in the November survey (Survey 2) the margin of error is +/- 4%.

About Fleishman-Hillard

Fleishman-Hillard Inc., one of the world’s leading public relations firms, has built its reputation by using strategic communications to deliver what its clients value most: meaningful, positive, and measurable impact on the performance of their organizations. The firm is widely recognized for excellent client service and a strong company culture founded on teamwork, integrity, and personal commitment. Based in St. Louis, the firm operates throughout

North America, Europe, Asia, Latin America, Australia, and South Africa through its 80 owned offices. For more information, visit the Fleishman-Hillard Web site at

Fleishman-Hillard is a part of Omnicom Group Inc. (NYSE: OMC). Omnicom is a leading global advertising, marketing and corporate communications company. Omnicom’s branded networks and numerous specialty firms provide advertising, strategic media planning and buying, direct and promotional marketing, public relations, and other specialty communications services to over 5,000 clients in more than 100 countries.


About Harrison Group

Harrison Group ( is one of the country’s leading marketing and strategic research consulting firms.  Based in Waterbury, Connecticut, Harrison Group specializes in concept testing, forecasting, segmentation, branding and market modeling for some of America’s leading companies.  The firm partners with Fortune 1000 clients to build substantial, profitable growth through superior marketing consulting and research.  Harrison Group’s core strengths have been successfully employed across consumer and business-to-business research engagements in more than 60 countries around the globe.


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