The Female Economy, Skateboarding and Afghanistan

This post is part of a blogging series by marketing students at the Presidio Graduate School’s MBA program. You can follow along here.

What comes to mind when you hear about the emerging economy of Afghanistan? China and Brazil? Tony Hawk and Shaun White? War and the Taliban? How can these seemingly unrelated topics have anything in common? Think: Marketing meets social equity – 21st century style.

The Female Economy

Women represent the biggest emerging market ever seen. Women account for $12 trillion or 67% of the $18 trillion spent annually on consumer goods around the world. From 2009-2014, the Boston Consulting Group (BCG) estimates that the global incomes of women will grow from $13 trillion to $18 trillion. That incremental $5 trillion is nearly twice the growth in GDP expected from the media darlings China and India combined. The vast majority of new income growth over the next ten years will come from women. Welcome to the dawn of the Female Economy.

With this amazing opportunity it only makes sense to market to the 21st century female. Yet global surveys show that women feel vastly undeserved by marketers. “Despite the remarkable strides in market power and social position that they have made in the past century, they still appear undervalued in the marketplace and underestimated in the workplace. Few companies have responded to their need for products and services designed specifically for them”, says Michael Silverstein and Kate Sayre in the Harvard Business Review. In many cases, rather than truly listening to their female consumers, marketers have opted for the shrink it and “make it pink” strategy.

Girls Skateboarding

A great example of the ignored market opportunities to women is the skateboarding industry. Girls have been skateboarding since it began in the 50’s, but it was not until the late 90’s when girls skateboarding really took off after the founding of the All Girl Skate Jam. But it still took years for anyone to even notice. The idea for the All Girl Skate Jam originated in 1990 when soul skater and board sport photographer Patty Segovia organized the first girls skateboarding demo in Reno, Nevada. Seven years later, in 1997 she decided to take her Sociology degree from UC-Santa Barbara and create a social movement calling it the All Girl Skate Jam.

For the next 12 years the All Girl Skate Jam and Segovia spread the message “all girls, all ages, and all abilities.” across the world. From the North Shore of Oahu to San Sebastian, Spain, All Girl Skate Jam was everywhere. In 2009, for the first time ever, the X games awarded the same $100,000 prize purse to the women as the men. This was a far cry from 1997 when a trophy was enough to make a girl skater happy. The All Girl Skate Jam combines skateboarding – the fastest growing part of the $8 billion board sports industry – with the biggest emerging market the world has ever seen – the Female Economy.


An inspiring example of how girls’ skateboarding is empowering women globally is Skateistan. With all of the horror stories coming out of Afghanistan it is great to find something positive happening. With 75% of Afghans under the age of 25 the future of the country lies with the youth. A small but growing number of young girls ride skateboards since two Australians, Oliver Percovich and Sharna Nolan, introduced the sport in 2007.

The movement began with Skateistan, a co-ed school with 320 students established to engage and empower urban and displaced youths through education – both in the classroom and on the skateboard. This has been a blessing in a country where girls and boys are rigidly separated and rarely engage in sports. Skateistan has brought boys and girls together, children sharing boards and showing off their skating moves. A new documentary, “Skateistan : To Live and Skate in Kabul,” shares the positive stories about Afghan youth.

One response

  1. Very cool project, though I find it hard to believe you can say women are underserved by marketers! It seems like 90% of advertising is aimed at Women.

    Granted most of it is for crap, but “underserved” is not the term I’d use!

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