Independent, financially secure and ambitious, South Africa's 1,5-million Black Diamond women are increasingly calling the shots when it comes to making decisions about purchases.
This is according to the Unilever Institute of Strategic Marketing and TNS Research Surveys, whose qualitative and quantitative Black Diamond 2008 studies found that black middle class women's annual spending power is now sitting at R120-billion – which represents over 40% of the annual spend of all South African women.
Since the annual Black Diamond research was first initiated in 2005, the number of upwardly mobile middle-class black South Africans has grown by 1-million people to 3-million.
"It was incredibly exciting to find that for the first time in our history, Black Diamonds' spending power matches that of white South Africans. In just one year it has leapt up from R180-billion in 2007 to R250-billion in 2008," says Professor John Simpson, director of the UCT Unilever Institute.
"Black Diamond women alone now represent one-tenth of the country's entire adult population. Their increased earnings are helping close the income gap with their male counterparts and they are becoming a vital economic force in their own right," maintains Simpson.
TNS Research Survey's Rudo Maponga explains this shift has also disrupted trends in a number of product categories, including non-traditional categories such as motor vehicles. She also reveals that economic empowerment means Black Diamond women are increasingly assuming the role of primary breadwinner and that the vast majority have the final say when it comes to purchases.
"The findings confirm some of our expectations. While we found women make decisions about 89% of day-to-day purchases, they are also responsible for 69% of major household purchases, like kitchen appliances. More interestingly, their economic clout is now being felt in sectors such as the car market where many women now have the final say on what is parked in the driveway," says Maponga.
Michelle Davadoss, head of marketing for Vehicle and Asset Finance at Nedbank, one of the corporate sponsors of the 2008 study, says the research confirms Nedbank's observations about this market. "In many instances Black Diamond women display a real 'go-getter' attitude and may be status driven, but they are also fiercely protective of their financial independence."
The research findings corroborate Davadoss' beliefs that Black Diamond women consider themselves ambitious and are able to achieve their goals. The overwhelming majority ascribe to women power, with 80 % of those surveyed believing that it will be women who will ensure the future success of the country.
The researchers partially ascribe this to South Africa' progressive constitution which supports non-sexism, as well as government policies which are largely succeeding in entrenching gender equality in many spheres of civic life.
"You cannot ignore the fact that South Africa is one of the very few countries in the world where almost half – 45% – of government posts are held by women. This is just one of the ways in which our society provides positive female role models," says Maponga.
While the study identifies that Black Diamond women's aspirations are influenced by positive role models, it shows there are also perceived societal and peer pressures to play "catch-up," following their rapid rise to the middle-class. However it reveals them to be intensely community-orientated. Strong family bonds, coupled with a profound sense of duty, sees 15% of their earnings going to assist members of their extended families.
Family and community commitments are just some of the pressures reported by the respondents who say that middle class life also comes fraught with several other pressures that impact on their lives and influences their buying behaviour.
"Aside from their bank balances, these motivating factors include their relationships with their partners, their perceptions about their independence, and their cultural beliefs and sensitivities. It is the interaction between all these tensions which determines their purchasing behaviour," says Simpson.
What Black Diamond women really think:
* 95% know they will achieve their own goals;
* 87% love trying new products;
* 82% feel that women will achieve much more than men in their generation;
* 78% consider themselves extremely ambitious;
* 73% feel that they don't need a man to achieve the goals they have set;
* 66% believe certain aspects of culture/tradition are outdated and need to be transformed; and
* 46% have a tertiary diploma or degree and 26% have a matriculation certificate.