Girl power is having a renaissance.

In the United States, better-than-expected economic performance is being attributed to spending associated with the Barbie movie, as well as recent tours by pop superstars Taylor Swift and Beyoncé.

And it’s women who are driving that spending, as they head out to movie theatres, buy outfits and accessories, and treat themselves to dinner or drinks.

But can they really keep the US out of recession, as some commentators suggest? 

Infometrics economist Sabrina Swerdloff thinks that’s a bit of a stretch.

“‘Girl power’ spending is probably a pretty small proportion of overall consumer spending and overall consumer spending is a small proportion of economic activity in the US,” she tells The Detail.

“I think to say that it’s going to push them out of recession is maybe not true, but that doesn’t mean that the trends happening in women’s spending aren’t really important.”

It’s at a local level that that spending makes a real difference – here in New Zealand, too.

“It’s a huge impact, especially when you consider flow-on effects. When you have benefits to a local movie theatre, the people there are able to have a bit more income and they’re able to spend that in their local community,” Swerdloff says.

But we’re spending pretty carefully, on things we might think of as a special treat.

“I think we’re coming into this stage post-pandemic where even though now we have access to a lot more services and are able to go out more than we were, to an extent we’re still limited because of this whole cost-of-living crisis.

“Just because we can go to restaurants doesn’t mean people are eating out every weekend, because the fact is, it’s still really, really difficult for households to do that. But I think that with all these girl power events going on, we’ve got the concerts, we’ve got the movies, I think it’s giving people an opportunity to let their money flow and it’s giving them an opportunity where they’re actually getting real bang for buck.”

Is the economic power of women – especially younger women – finally being taken seriously?

Alex Casey, senior writer for The Spinoff, says the Barbie movie is the first big blockbuster that’s really been made for a female audience.

It’s also cashing in on the trend towards nostalgia in pop culture: Taylor Swift’s re-recording of her albums, reboots of television shows like Sex and the City, Gossip Girl and Gilmore Girls.

Lucy Blakiston, co-founder of Shit You Should Care About, has written about it in a recent piece titled, ‘On being a teenage girl in your 20s’.

“Everything is pushing us towards a bit of joy, and why not?” she says.

“If I don’t want to be cynical and talk about the fact that it makes a lot of people a lot of money, for me, I’m in this position where – am I ever going to be able to buy a house? Is the world going to burn down before I even have to think about that? Who knows?

“The disposable income that I have now, the little bit of it … I’d rather spend it on memories and not mortgages.”

Nina Santos, communications and advocacy manager for YWCA Auckland, explains how far women have come in the past few decades, in terms of their participation in the workforce and their earning power.

However, she says there’s still a lot of work to do to close the gender and ethnic pay gaps.

Hear more about the new pink dollar in the full podcast episode.

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