Thursday, May 20, 2010

The Power of the Purse and Vera Bradley

Until now this blog has been about The Power of the Purse meaning the power women have to give philanthropically from their increased earnings and control of wealth.  But what about the power of women’s spending?  With women making 80 percent of the nation’s purchases, what does the Power of the Purse represent in the consumer market?  What should it represent?

When making our purchases as the world’s largest economy (yes, author Tom Peters did say women were the world’s largest economy), I think we should ask these six questions that I call:

Six Spending Requirements From the Power of My Purse:
1.        How many women are on the corporation’s board?
2.        What charitable efforts does the company support?
3.        What does the corporation do to help women and girls?
4.        How is the corporation working to increase women’s roles in management and corporate executives?
5.        Does the company have a plan for increasing diversity?
6.        How is the corporation collaborating with others to further philanthropy?

Women's Power of the Purse is enormous.  Just as in our philanthropy, we can have an incredible impact on the corporate world; helping them see our way of thinking and living as the best way. 

One company that does just that is Vera Bradley.  Begun in 1982 in their basements by Patricia Miller and her friend Barbara Bradley Baekgaard (shown above), and named for Barbara's mother who died of breast cancer, Vera Bradley Designs is now a global empire.  In 1998, a Vera Bradley Foundation was established which created the Vera Bradley Center for Breast Cancer research and its Chair in Oncology.  So in fact, Vera Bradley represents both sides of the Power of the Purse: philanthropy and corporate awareness. 

I personally buy Vera Bradley purses because they’re pretty, not terribly expensive and the company passes the Six Spending Requirements: 

§  4 of six board members are women
§  the company supports research for breast cancer research
§  this research helps women and girls
§  Vera Bradley is very supportive of diversity  
§  although I couldn’t find what the company specifically does to increase women’s roles in management and as corporate executives, more than 60 percent of their staff are women  
§  Vera Bradley has joined forces with both Aetna and MassMutual to battle breast cancer  

A score of 5.5 out of 6 is enough for me to proudly carry my Vera Bradley bag(s) because I know my “power of the purse” counts.  And I can also spot others in airports and on the street whom I know feel the same way about Vera Bradley and what it represents to us as women: caring and giving.

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