Move Over Boys, Women-led Brands Are Having a Moment

Thought leaders are actively promoting female-led products, brands, and companies to appeal to values-conscious consumers and right an imbalance in the marketplace.


The show may have been called Mad Men, but fans of the AMC drama chronicling the life of advertising executives in the 1960s, know that many of the groundbreaking marketing ideas coming out of the fictional Madison Avenue agency the series revolved around, came from unheralded and underappreciated women.

For young progressive types it might be hard to believe, but before the Women’s Business Ownership Act of 1988 was signed into federal law, women couldn’t even get a basic business loan without a male cosigner.

Well, the times, as Bob Dylan said in the real 1960s that Mad Men was set in, they are a-changin’. Today, the marketplace has shifted — on both sides of the transaction. Women consumers have greater influence and spending power than ever before, and women-led and women-owned brands are rapidly emerging to cater to this lucrative and culturally-important demographic. 

Investing in Women Everywhere

Women leaders in marketing, advertising, branding, product design, and corporate stewardship are revealing themselves to be a potent force for connecting with consumers from all segments of society, not merely just other women. Consequently, some of the biggest names in corporate America are putting their cards on the table and declaring their support for this development.

Women consumers have greater influence and spending power than ever before.

For example, consumer packaged goods giant Procter & Gamble (P&G) announced a partnership recently with WEConnect International, a global non-profit that works with 130 multinational buyers (representing over $1 trillion in purchasing power) to connect them to businesses that are at least 51-percent women owned, managed, and controlled by at least one or more women.

Move Over Boys, Women-led Brands Are Having a MomentP&G is putting big dollars behind its commitment to women’s economic empowerment, to the tune of $10 billion that it promises to spend on women-owned and led businesses by 2025, as part of WEConnect International’s #Rise2theChallenge campaign.

“Women own roughly 30-percent of all private businesses worldwide, yet women-owned businesses receive less than 1-percent of the supply chain spend from large corporations,” said WEConnect International CEO Elizabeth A. Vazquez. “By expanding their gender inclusive procurement policies and practices already in place around the world, P&G will help ensure that women-owned businesses have an equal opportunity to compete for contract opportunities, thereby advancing women’s economic empowerment through its global value chain.”

This isn’t the first year that global brands have used their authority in the marketplace to bring attention to women’s issues. The “This Is A Leader” campaign from 2019 saw brands including  Estée Lauder, Nordstrom, UGG, and Williams-Sonoma celebrating female leadership up and down their org chart, from the factory to the board room. 

That campaign was organized by the HERproject, which promotes health, financial inclusion, and gender equality for women in the workplace. The HERproject is itself a program run by an organization of sustainability commerce experts called Business for Social Responsibility.

“Williams-Sonoma, Inc. is at the forefront of the female-empowered workforce and we’re proud to partner with HERproject to empower women working in factories where our products are made,” said Mandy Seidel, VP of Global Sourcing for Pottery Barn, a subsidiary of Williams-Sonoma. 

Nancy Mahon, a Senior VP, Global Corporate Citizenship and Sustainability, The Estée Lauder Companies, Inc. shared similar sentiments: “As a company founded by a woman, it is critically important that we serve and empower women as consumers, employees, and members of the global communities where we do business.”


An annual event called Women-Led Wednesday has also picked up steam in the past few years. On the Wednesday before Thanksgiving, which this year will be November 24, consumers are encouraged to patronize companies with women founders or CEOs. The event was started by Cassie Abel, the CEO of outdoor clothing brand Wild Rye

“There’s a lot of conversation about the pay gap, and there’s a lot of conversation about the lack of women at the top,” said Abel. Much like Small Business Saturday, the campaign has become a shopping holiday that resonates with values-conscious consumers during the height of the winter shopping season.

The need for initiatives like these are apparent to anyone who looks closely at where the power in the workplace predominantly exists right now. Certainly, things are improving. A record number of women are now counted among all Fortune 500 CEOs, yet they still make up a mere 8.2-percent of the list despite representing half the population.

Move Over Boys, Women-led Brands Are Having a MomentAs marketers, it’s also important to note that there’s more to this mission than mere goodwill and positive values. Doing the right thing is a reward unto itself, but there are economic rationales and benefits to consider as well. According to the Women’s Business Enterprise National Council, women control the purse strings in a majority of American homes, driving 70 to 80-percent of all consumer purchases. 

Plus, it’s only getting easier for consumers to find information that will help them direct their spending to women-led brands and companies, if they so desire. For example, in 2019 Yelp added a “women-owned company” criteria to its search engine. Since 2015, Walmart has strategically added a women-owned logo to several products it carries, and between 2012 and 2019, the retail giant spent $30 billion on female-led companies in an effort to promote diversity in its buying process.

Female Role Models Show the Way

The fastest growing demographics, Generation Y and Z, already know that women are a force to be reckoned with in the workplace and the marketplace. 

They look to billionaire female moguls like Rihanna of Fenty Beauty, eBay CEO Meg Whitman, Kylie Jenner of Kylie Cosmetics, Meta’s Sheryl Sandberg, 23andMe cofounder Anne Wojcicki, and other women that are succeeding at the highest levels as trailblazers and inspirations.

It’s abundantly clear that both the near and distant future is going to embrace even greater diversity and provide new opportunities for women to finally and completely break through every glass ceiling.


Hanlon has decades of brand expertise in tracking the trends in the marketplace and positioning adaptive organizations for peak relevance with their target audience. Contact us today to learn how we can put you on a path to growth.