View from
The Right

Jordan Peterson, Women, and Who Really Makes 80% of Consumer Decisions

“The debate about gender and the market can’t be won with a single sentence—or with a single disputed statistic like the 80% figure. It is a nuanced discussion.”

In what is perhaps  his most famous interview appearance yet—which currently stands at over 12 million views and 300,000 likes—Jordan Peterson had a particularly interesting response to his interviewer’s claim that “markets are dominated by men.” With a striking fierceness that was absent from his other answers, he rejected the possibility of such a reality. Instead, he argued that “the market is dominated by women” and stressed his point that women “make 80% of the consumer decisions.”

This line of argument remained largely uncontested by his Channel 4 counterpart—an uncharacteristic action for a host that had been and remained extremely combative for the duration of the program. Cathy Newman’s choice not to press Dr. Peterson’s point is perhaps to be expected, given that this statistic has been echoed by major media sources for years as indisputable fact. As an  excellent investigative piece by The Wall Street Journal recognized, however, this “fact” is rather an echo; everyone repeats it, but nobody quite knows where it originated from.

Where does it actually come from then? Many cite it as coming from the pen of one Marti Barletta, who is part-women’s marketing consultant and part-author. She has published three books, all of which are on the subject of marketing towards women, and the “80% figure” comes from one that was published in 2002, aptly titled Marketing to Women. When pressed on its veracity, she admitted that even she had no idea if it were actually true or not, conceding that it was nothing more than a “rule-of-thumb number” with little statistical backing. In reality, when it comes to the role of women in the economy, the situation is much more complicated.

There is conflicting information on either side of the “women-dominate” versus the “women-don’t-dominate” debate. The Boston Consulting Group (BCG), as The Wall Street Journal reported, determined in 2008 that both genders regularly claim to be responsible for the majority of consumer decision-making. Women self-identified as making 73% of consumer decisions. The men, polled separately, said they, rather than their female counterparts, made the majority of the decisions. But BCG apparently decided to publish only the dataset of the women’s answers, further contributing to this narrative that it is the women making these unilateral calls about what to buy. 

So I don’t blame Dr. Peterson for recycling that statistic—after all, it has been brought to the table many times, from Forbes to Fast CompanyHe’s also not entirely wrong, as women do seem to dominate in some areas household spending sectors, including vacation destinations, for example. They are reportedly also rapidly catching up when it comes to choice of technology products. So the 80% figure is less of a lie than it is an oversimplification. With that being said, if Peterson’s response had been completely grounded in established fact, would it have necessarily acted as a strong enough counter to Newman’s original claim of the existence of a patriarchal market? I don’t think so.

The intent of her assertion wasn’t to argue that men make the bulk of consumer decisions, but rather that men control the market as a whole. That is a significant distinction and warrants a completely different type of discussion. She was arguing that given men’s positions of power in management and production, they would be able to—purposely or implicitly—create a market climate that favors men as opposed to women.

They might be doing this unconsciously rather than intentionally, so it is likely an overstatement to say that they are out to get their wives, sisters, and daughters. If men are the ones making decisions on corporate boards, it stands to reason that they are making far-reaching decisions without an overabundance of female input. And there probably is little in the way of malice on their part. But, even if women do indeed control a fair amount of consumer spending, it’s all taking place in a market orchestrated by men, opening the door for a potential mismatch in gender parity.

Furthermore, as Newman herself points out, even if the majority of consumers are, in fact, women, then even more people are potentially susceptible to being ripped off by the existence of a so-called “pink tax.” The “pink tax” famously suggests that merchandise geared towards women can cost more than products aimed at men. Sometimes, just adding a touch of pink is all that is required to cause a sharp increase in price. According to one metric, clothing for girls is 4% more expensive than clothes for boys. And toys for girls tend to cost 7% more than toys for boys. As USA Today tells us, one “red scooter cost $24.99 and a pink scooter cost $49, despite them being identical in all other ways.”

The debate about gender and the market can’t be won with a single sentence—or with a single disputed statistic like the 80% figure. It is a nuanced discussion, warranting conversations on theories like the gender pay gap, the unintended consequences of gender composition in management, and maternity leave. Although sound bites from interviews such as these might make for a compelling talking point, to be truly useful, they need to be complemented by the complete range of quantitative data on a complicated subject.

Matthew Pinna is a student at the University of Chicago. 

6
Leave a Reply

avatar
4000

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.

newest oldest most voted
Mark
Guest
Mark

Unfortunately after a number of hitpieces on Peterson by Merion West, you blokes don’t have a leg to stand on. You’ve repeatedly mislabelled him as a conservative (Matt McManus).

And then you attempted to link him to the alt-right, which Peterson has repeatedly denounced (Grafton Tanner).

But keep writing these articles, guys. You’re introducing us all to the lies of legacy media.

Marti Barletta
Guest
Marti Barletta

Hi, Matthew – It’s such a shame you didn’t call me to ask if I had more support for the “80% of consumer buying decisions” estimate (not “statistic” – estimate) that you take issue with. If you’d like to see the detailed analysis I sent Carl Bialik, the WSJ “Numbers Guy,” and the author of that “excellent investigative piece” you cited, I posted it in my public Dropbox here: http://bit.ly/2q7L0Uc. It’s quite true that in his article, Bialik decided to go with his unsubstantiated opinion rather than my estimate, which I found surprising for a “numbers guy.” But don’t you… Read more »

S.Kramer
Guest
S.Kramer

Oh man… Mr. Pinna failed to do some basic journalistic work.

Quelle surprise…

Matthew Pinna
Guest
Matthew Pinna

Thank you for commenting Marti — I’m actually very happy that you raised some points to what I wrote; I enjoy when my readers are engaged enough to have an active discussion! As for your Dropbox information, however, all of that is included in my piece. I directly stated that they dominate in household spending, and the document I cited shows their influence in most of those other sectors that you pointed out. The information is a bit more current than yours, so it says that men now edge out when it comes to electronics. I even included the BCG… Read more »

Matthew Pinna
Guest
Matthew Pinna

Thank you for commenting Marti — I’m actually very happy that you raised some points to what I wrote; I enjoy when my readers are engaged enough to have an active discussion! As for your Dropbox information, however, all of that is included in my piece. I directly stated that they dominate in household spending, and the document I cited shows their influence or proven effect in most of those other sectors that you pointed out. The information is a bit more current than yours, so it says that men now edge out when it comes to electronics. I even… Read more »

Matthew Pinna
Guest
Matthew Pinna

I mean no disrespect whatsoever Marti — I understand that you are very accomplished and didn’t intend to detract from that in any way. I actually considered what I called you to be a compliment, as it shows you have the immense capabilities required to do both. Thank you again for commenting though, and I look forward to further dialogue!