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Maddy Dychtwald is an author, public speaker, marketing executive and co-founder of Age Wave, a demographic and forecasting company. She is an expert on aging populations and how they affect[…]

Over the past 30 years, inflation-adjusted income levels have remained flat for men. Women, on the other hand, have seen their incomes grow exponentially.

Question: Why do women have so much more economic influence now than they used to?

Maddy Dychtwald:  Well if you think about it for a minute you’d really begin to realize that for thousands of years women were really economically dependent on men and that is just the way it was.  I mean in fact, if my grandmother or great grandmother were alive today she just wouldn’t even believe the way the world works and the way women have really gained economic power.  I think if you go back to the 1960s, you begin to see the early signs of that because baby boomer women were the first generation en masse to get that education and education was really the key for women succeeding in the workplace—not just entering the workplace, but staying in the workplace and getting really some pretty good earning power.  Back then, very few women prior to the baby boom generation had that opportunity, but this generation went in there, made it happen and education really has been sort of at the heart of what's allowed women to really gain that economic power that has transformed their role in society for now and well into the future.

Question: What has changed?

Maddy Dychtwald: What is so interesting to me is that while women were gaining their education for the very first time in history we saw our economy transform itself pretty dramatically.  We went from an economy that was industrial, manufacturing-based, where brawn really defined your role and gave you the power to really earn income, to a more knowledge-based economy where the skill set was more education based. So women got that education at exactly the right moment in history that allowed them to really succeed in the workplace.  Today for the very first time we see a critical mass of women entering the workforce with that education and gaining earning power.  In fact, what is so incredible is that if you were to look over the last 30 years what you would notice is that men’s income has remained rather flat if you adjust for inflation, whereas women's income has grown exponentially.  Now of course some of that is just trying to catch up and we’re still not all the way there.  There is still a lot of work to be done, but women have gained incredible, incredible power, economically and they’re beginning to take that power and translate it into all kinds of interesting ways of doing things different than the way men have.

Question: What are some of those ways?

Maddy Dychtwald:  What we begin to understand as we see large numbers of women with earning power is that women in fact do use their money differently than men.  In fact, it’s been noted even in developing countries that 90% of women take their income and they reinvest it in their families and their communities while in those same developing nations only about 30% to 70% of men take that money and reinvest it in families and communities.  They have a tendency to spend it on alcohol and tobacco. So you know it doesn’t sound really great on the surface, but that is just really the truth in developing countries. But even in the United States what we notice is that women have a tendency to spend their money more on their family and more on education, on health and on things that really make life for families a little bit better.  That is good news

Recorded on October 12, 2010
Interviewed by John Cookson