There is no denying how influential a woman can be.

To quote a recent Bloomberg article, “if the consumer economy had a sex, it would be female.” Women, in addition to driving 70-80% of all consumer purchasing, bring their own set of expectations and buying behaviors to the marketplace—marketers better take note. Often the primary shoppers for their households, women are looking for brands to be inclusive and relatable before settling on a purchase.

And women are doing more than using their wallets to influence big brand decisions; they’re leading boardroom meetings and playing a bigger role in corporate decision making. Given higher consumer expectations for authenticity, connection and empathy, it’s no surprise to see women are building the brands we’ve always wanted. I recently spoke to Amanda Clark, AJ Hassan and Rachel Blumenthal at SXSW on how women are leveraging their influence to fuel the business changes consumers wish to see.

Brands pay attention to a woman’s purchasing power

With women controlling over half (51%) of US personal wealth, brand marketers face a big challenge: learning how to sell to the female consumer. It turns out the best way to market to women starts with taking the time to identify what women want and how they shop.

“Brands are now embracing a lot of qualities we as a society have deemed traditionally female—transparency, honesty, empathy,” says Amanda Clark, EVP of Restaurant Experience at Taco Bell. “If you look back five or ten years ago, a lot of brand advertising focused on talking at consumers or even down to them.”

Data from our Brands Get Real reports reveals 64% of consumers want brands to connect with them. That percentage grows to 68% when we look only at female consumers. And when brands understand women, 54% of female consumers say they feel connected to that business.

Women aren’t just influencing the brands they shop with, they’re also impacting the businesses that don’t consider women their target audience at all. In addition to buying over 50% of traditional male products, women have identified themselves as the primary shopper for their household for years. Brands might produce men’s clothes, but their messaging needs to connect with the woman buying those clothes. Old Spice, for example, addressed women directly in their now infamous “Smell like a Man, Man” commercial knowing full well that women often make the decisions on men’s grooming products.

Creating change from within

As women continue to make change with their wallets, they’re also making waves in the boardrooms of corporate America.

Within organizations, women are driving product innovation and helping brands reach previously untapped markets. It was female employees at Harry’s who first realized men weren’t the only ones using their razors and encouraged the brand to pursue a women’s line. Under the direction of two women in senior positions in brand strategy and R&D, Harry’s launched its women’s brand Flamingo featuring a design that is empathetic to a woman’s shaving needs.

And in advertising, women are helping brands finetune their messaging to better relate to female consumers. At Procter & Gamble’s Always, Vice President Fama Francisco and her colleagues leveraged consumer insights to inform the creation of the highly successful “Like a Girl” campaign.

“When you look at the ‘Like a Girl’ campaign, perspective played a big role,” says AJ Hassan, VP, Executive Creative Director of R/GA Chicago. “One of the reasons the work resonated so well with women and girls is because their voices were brought into the conversation from the start. And I really believe that was due to the fact that the team across the client and agency was 90% women.”

Women aren’t waiting for brands to include them

Simultaneously, women are building the brands that value the same things women value: connection, empathy and authenticity.

“As entrepreneurs, our greatest strength comes from being somewhat naive because we can bring fresh perspectives and new ideas without being tied down,” says Rachel Blumenthal, CEO & founder of Rockets of Awesome.

But the biggest hurdle preventing female entrepreneurs from getting their business off the ground is the male-dominated investor circle they have to get past first. While the number of women-owned businesses grew 114% in the last couple of decades, female founders raised only 2.2% of venture capital investment in 2018. When Katrina Lake founded Stitch Fix, she struggled to raise money from male investors because she had to first convince them her personal shopping subscription service was something women actually wanted. Today, Lake runs a billion dollar company and became the youngest woman to ever take a company public.

In response to the funding dilemma, women are becoming investors themselves and changing the way partners identify which businesses to invest in. While only making up 30% of all angel investors today, research shows a female partner is more likely to invest in a female founder.

Today’s consumers seek authenticity, transparency and empathy from the brands they shop with, and brand marketers can’t afford to ignore the masses any longer. More specifically, leading marketers are turning to women to build the brands that answer the call of consumers. As women increasingly drive boardroom decisions and strengthen their purchasing power, it’s only a matter of time before their influence is felt in brands all over the world.