Historians categorize the earliest men and women into starkly simple gender roles—hunters and gatherers. Men would hunt to provide live game for the society, while women would forage for edible plants, berries, and useful materials with which to build shelter. The female also kept watch over the children. In fact, as she gathered materials, her peripheral vision evolved to cover a wider range, allowing her to literally watch the children from the corner of her eyes.
Pre-modern women represent the first multitaskers, and to this day females carry on a juggling act-simply look around at a grocery store and notice how moms fill up their carts, and catch up on the phone, all the while making sure the kids are not running amok.
According to a market study entitled “Men Buy, Women Shop,” this gender based classification holds true even today. Men remain focused on their mission, in other words, the item they are searching for, while shopping. Women, on the other hand prefer to peruse through goods and solicit the advice of sales associates. Women gather information to inform their preferences as they walk around, smell perfume, and sample cosmetics. Why not harness our natural tendency to acquire information and apply it at the juncture where the entrepreneurial motive for profit meets the social impact mission?
The following three-part “poem” explores the idea that by tapping into their roles as gatherers, planners, and multitaskers, women can use market research to transform human capital (family) into social capital (immeasurable social welfare or public gains).
Women Predict Trends & Irrational Behaviors…
Market research gurus—especially female executives like Kay Nash—write about random observations on fads and trends.
In fact, studies show how “half-off” incentives push a female consumer to buy shoes that “sorta fit” – she pretends…
Dan Ariely, the behavioral economist and writer behind Predictably Irrational, still hasn’t addressed some of my behavioral observations.
I have observed how perfectly rational, educated, and forward-thinking Muslim women do random things and land in irrational situations.
Three questions continue to baffle me as I witness what I couldn’t have predicted.
These questions cross generations—the answers are not culture specific or restricted.
1) Why do some mothers collect tea sets, bath towels, and jewelry?
Although they are bought on sale, critics shout “What is this tomfoolery!”
These moms choose their daughters’ wedding dresses before the girl even starts high school, and call it an investment?
However, I imagine that economists would argue that such allocations would be an opportunity cost, if not a divestment!
2) Why did my highly educated friend run amok at the Crate & Barrel to create a Bridal Registry, tagging many items, but forgetting to tag the husband-to-be?
It might seem downright silly, but when was the last time you witnessed a Muslim-American man bow down and practice the phrase, “Will you marry me?”
3) Why do sane teenage and college women obsess about putting on neutral colored makeup and donning the nude lip to look more natural?
I’m not arguing whether makeup is Islamic or not—I believe that ideas of beauty are sociological, cultural and downright ephemeral.
Do these market trends represent what we, living in a modern society, could have predicted?
Maybe our Muslim-American identity, culture, and structure have not completely shifted?
Or could I have foreseen these random acts of odd behavior if I had remembered that women are born Gatherers and Planners?
Gallup’s “Well-Being Index” inspired reflection on the effects of certain Obsessive Compulsive Disorder manners.
Women Operate As the Gatherers And As Planners…
In Pre-Modern society, we gathered the berries, veggies, children, wood, hand-made tools, animals, and a variety of other house-building materials.
Now we gather “organic” berries, veggies, the same kids and pets—but we document how we gather in albums—and use coupons for scrapbooking deals.
Prior to the Industrial Revolution, we planned the tea parties, the lunches, the marches, the halaqas, the protests, the yearly kids’ birthdays and the weddings.
In the Post-Industrial Revolution, we still plan the birthday parties but renamed the remaining fun as “Committee” lunches or “Girls’ Night Out” festivities.
Between both these periods we managed to plan our household budgets, our college/graduate applications, and collective movements to get things done.
But then we took it too far, by planning our weddings before we even settled down in our minds with someone specific—which is adventurous minus the fun!
Perhaps these processes happen so automatically in our minds as we’ve progressed through the millennia.
I am concerned that we have forgotten that not all men have progressed with us as we plan in their absentia.
Women Flourish As Task-Masters…
No matter which time period we review, we know that women have definitely mastered multitasking.
Despite women’s challenges, they manage to communicate because they’re not afraid of asking.
Women improve themselves, their loved ones, as well as the environments surrounding them.
Forget those men who believe feedback is nagging—they are not known for their skills of verbatim.
Men as the hunters, are so focused, they tend to use less words to communicate.
Meanwhile, women gather information and plan tasks as they contemplate.
But at the end of the day, if women continue to excel as gatherers, planners, and multitaskers.
I hope that these traits are appreciated by those around them and they are viewed as over-achievers.
Rather than remain driven to such extremes of these naturally evolving adaptations and qualities…
The mom, the single professional, and the teen should run their own market research companies.
What some may call OCD mannerisms, I call unchanneled energies or synergies.
Some question, if not criticize, women’s exchange of reverberating pleasantries.
However, I refer to this small talk or chit-chat as well-executed “strategery.”
Remember, women excel as gatherers, planners, and other such task mastery.
(Photo: Lance Robotson)
Mehrunisa Qayyum is an International Policy and Strategy Consultant in Washington, D.C. She graduated with an MPP from Georgetown University with a Certificate in Contemporary Arab Studies and a B.A. from University of Chicago in Near Eastern Languages & Civilizations.