Idle Thoughts: The Purchasing Power of Women

Sept. 1, 2005
Can’t buy a man? Buy a condo! My friends laugh when I say this to them, but it is representative of what I see happening all around me in the purchasing power of women.

Can’t buy a man? Buy a condo! My friends laugh when I say this to them, but it is representative of what I see happening all around me in the purchasing power of women. As recently as 2004, it was estimated that women make 83 percent of all consumer buying decisions on products that are not only gender-sensitive but gender-neutral, such as cars, electronics, and homes. By the time this article is printed, I will have purchased two condos for investment (and yes, feel free to make the obvious assumptions about my social life!).

The Austrian neurologist and founder of psychoanalysis, Sigmund Freud (1856-1939), has been quoted as saying, “The great question that has never been answered, and which I have not yet been able to answer, despite my 30 years of research into the feminine soul, is, What does a woman want?”

The success of everyone from Dr. Phil to Woman Dentist Journal has been predicated on answering this question. There is an assumption that meeting the needs of women will lead to emotional satisfaction (make a woman happy) and material gain (so that she will buy more product). It seems a simple concept that only recently the various marketing industries have been willing to accept and actively support.

At 5’ 7” with relatively large hands, I have always found my dental environment to be comfortable and was mildly shocked to find that this feeling was not shared among my team members. When my partner and I remodeled the office, we found ourselves returning patient chairs purchased for the hygiene rooms. With the gracious help of our dealer, we were able to respond to the loud, dissident voices of our hygienists who found that the rounded back design of the chairs kept them from the close patient contact so necessary for proper posture and operator comfort. After much discussion (and I am ashamed to admit, many queries from me of the type, “Are you sure you can’t work with this?”), we accommodated their needs.

So everything from dental chairs to anesthetic syringes can be purchased with the smaller hands and bodies of women in mind. Everyone from manufacturers to marketers to social gurus is listening to women with some interesting results. I wonder, in our search to find ourselves and find products that will enrich our lives, will we also find time to remember and honor those people who make it all possible?

I don’t know that the first patient I encountered the day after I signed the second condo contract really understood the importance of the question I posed to her at the end of her appointment: “Why do you choose to come to this office as opposed to any other for treatment?” Her response - “Because I trust you and like the way the staff treats me as a patient!” - prompted an internal sigh of relief and, let’s admit it, the belief that if our office continues to provide this level of treatment, I can continue to exercise my purchasing power.

Maybe, just maybe, Dr. Phil and Woman Dentist Journal (and other industries interested in responding to women) have been successful at least partially in answering Dr. Freud’s question. Our Idle Thoughts are effecting change. How about that?

Until next month ...

Sharon Szeszycki, DDS
Dr. Szeszycki is a graduate of the dental hygiene program at Southern Illinois University, a BS graduate of the dental hygiene program at Loyola University, and a graduate of the Loyola University School of Dentistry. She has been actively involved for more than 10 years with the Mediation and Peer Review Committees of the Chicago Dental Society. A full-time co-partner in a general dentistry practice in Lombard, Ill., she may be contacted at [email protected].