Outside the kitchenBy Krishnan Subramanian
Empowerment of Asian women is a well-documented trend.
As Asian women make gains in education, employment, health and political representation, key indicators of a tightening gender gap, they also gain access to some serious purse strings. Women currently represent 70% of the workforce in countries such as China and Vietnam. In an analysis by Goldman Sachs, if Japanese female participation rates rose to levels currently seen in the US (i.e., 62% vs. 55%), this would add 2.6 million people to the workforce, raising Japan’s trend GDP growth rate from 1.2% to 1.5% over the next two decades.
No doubt then, that this generation of Asian women is more empowered than the last.
While we can in some ways identify and quantify this progress as well as put a figure against the financial opportunity it represents, those of us in the business of people and relationship-building—marketers, brand stewards, employers, might find it more useful to have a deeper appreciation for what empowerment and progress means on a more personal, human level.
How is greater empowerment transforming a woman’s relationships (with herself, other women, men, brands)? How it is making her feel? Progress towards women’s empowerment is arguably a desirable, overwhelmingly positive development. But with all great change comes great tension. The nagging questions we have had: what are the rumbling, unspoken tensions in the life of an empowered woman in Asia, can we better understand them, and, in the end, help to diffuse a bit of the pressure?
Perhaps nowhere do the changes and tensions of this new empowered reality play out more starkly than in the context of the home. It is both a microcosm of society, the cultural pushes and pulls at play, and a more intimate window into the crucible of modern relationships under transformation. Once limited to traditional roles inside the house, more and more women are taking up new, and often additional, roles outside of it, in the workplace. Here we will use the home and its personal spaces as a springboard to understanding the inter-personal transformations and new tensions occurring among Asia’s empowered women.
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