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Opinion and Insight

Beneath the Surface: A JWT report on Asian Women

J. Walter Thompson APAC, 2 years, 4 months ago

Women’s roles are shifting rapidly across booming Asia, thanks to new career opportunities, better education and loosening traditions

Beneath the Surface: A JWT report on Asian Women

From recasting the “left over women” phenomena in China to riding the technopreneur wave in Indonesia, women are challenging notions and redefining their roles in Asian society today.

In “Asian Women: Beneath the Surface,” a new report by J. Walter Thompson, we surveyed 1,500 women aged 20-45 in China, India and Indonesia. The aim was to examine and contrast attitudes toward finances, career, dating, family roles and beauty norms – and understand what this means for marketers and brands.

“The aim of this study was to go ‘beneath the surface’ and understand new opportunities and tensions for women in Asia’s powerhouse economies – China, India and Indonesia. To uncover how women based on their unique cultural context are navigating these changes differently,” said Atika Malik, global planning director, J Walter Thompson.

In China

Most women in China believe that beauty is extremely important to succeed in the workplace. Only 13% of Chinese women want to look beautiful in order to attract men.

China, where women “hold up half the sky,” has the highest rate of working women in Asia. But Chinese women, who face expectations to settle down, have children – and take care of aging parents - also want a more equal relationship at home.

Getting along with their in-laws is a #1 key to happy marriage.

What this means for brands: This new generation of financially independent Chinese women provides opportunities for categories like real estate companies, banking and auto marketers. Advertising role models must portray both beauty and brains. With grandparents increasingly doing parental roles, brands should include them in childcare directed communication.

In Indonesia

Over half of the Indonesian women surveyed want to open their own business – much higher than any other market. Technology is making this easier, leading to a mushrooming of “Instashops.”

Women are making headway in non-traditional fields, from business to sport. Today’s role models include World Bank COO Sri Mulyani and the country’s first female F1 driver Alexandra Asmasoebrata.

Yet 90 per cent of Indonesian women say advertisers could do more to connect with them, for example, with more realistic portrayals of today’s women in advertising.

What this means for brands: Work is the most influential driver of change for Indonesian women, but those in rural parts of Indonesia are often left out. Brands that help women navigate tradition and modernity will strike a chord with women. Financial institutions, mortgage lenders and car companies tend to overlook women, even though many women make significant financial decisions in the family.

In India

India’s labour force participation rate for women is low and falling - from just over 37pc in 2005 to 30pc in 2013 – but that’s partly because more women are studying longer. 91% believe that being educated is the single most important criteria for a sucessful woman.

Career women earning their own money are redefining traditional gender roles. For example, the 2014 Hindi biopic, “Mary Kom,” is based on a true story of a world champion boxer coached by her husband.

A total of 64pc of the women surveyed felt their opinion is valued at home and work. Popular culture and advertising are challenging traditional sterotypes. That is perhaps why women surveyed felt that advertising reflected them better than in China or Indonesia.

What this means for brands: Brands must keep up with and even lead popular culture, celebrating talent and encouraging women to find their identity. Maybe because many ads have started to show a more nuanced portrayal of women, Indian women see advertising in most categories as resonating with them, with the exception of real estate.

“Brands need to understand culture and tradition in Asian society, but they also need keep pace with the changing narrative among women in key, emerging markets,” said Tom Doctoroff, J. Walter Thompson Asia Pacific CEO.  

“And that’s a message for all brands, not just those that typically ‘talk’ to women.  Categories that have traditionally focused on men could also do more to reach out to the region’s female consumers, who have more to spend and are driving both household consumption and family finances in these key markets.”


For a full copy of the report click here


Category: Corporate and social , Social