- Created on 10 May 2013
I believe our future is in good hands, despite what recent news headlines would have us otherwise believe. You are as familiar as I am with the barrage of negative stories of violence, drugs, teen pregnancy, bullying and other questionable behaviors of today’s youth. No matter where you live in the country, I’ll bet there are legions more of good kids in your city or town who are shining in every area of their lives, excelling in school, giving back in ways both small and large to their communities, sports and other extracurricular activities. In the spirit of full disclosure, I claim my bragging rights as the mother of one of these outstanding young people, my 16-year-old son.
I always talk about how this nation is becoming more and more multicultural day by day. In fact, in eight years, there will be 170 million multicultural consumers in the United States. This nation is a huge melting pot already, but these forecasted numbers are promising for people of color – especially young people.
According to the most recent U.S. Census, African Americans, Hispanics and Asians each make up 42 percent of the youngest demographic age groups: 12-17, 18-24 and 25-34. These same groups of young folks are going to be in our shoes as adults in a few decades and their numbers are on the rise. The 18 to 24 year-old demographic is, in fact, growing faster than any other segment.
Businesses and advertisers are paying very close attention to the information I’m sharing with you today. All of us know by now how critical everything we purchase, watch, read and listen to is for manufacturers and marketers. The same is true for young people. What are their consumer behaviors? How much are they contributing or will they contribute in the future to the consumer bottom-line? Nielsen research shows that teens have some real purchasing potential – although at this point, that potential has a lot to do with the earnings of their parents, grandparents or guardians, since most kids are not yet making the big bucks. Last year, 29 percent of teens in the U.S. lived in households earning more than $100K. And if you are the parent of teenager(s), you know they are very good at spending our money. Can I get an ‘AMEN’ on that?
I’m sure it comes as no surprise that ownership of smartphones and tablets is growing faster in households with teenagers. There was a 45 percent jump in smartphone penetration among teens between 2011 and 2012, a 32 percent increase among young adults 18-24 and 22 percent among those 25-34. The numbers for laptop penetration are interesting. It seems laptops are cool with young people until they hit their late 20s – even though laptop ownership has increased in all three young adult age groups (12-17, 18-24, 25-34) over the last year.
We talk a lot in this column about how much time all of us spend in front of the television or watching our video content on one of the many other fun electronic toys we own. That time spent is money – both for the marketers who want to reach us and the program providers who measure and make decisions based on our viewing habits. Teens and young adults, like the rest of us, watch most of their shows and videos the old school way – on television. However, according to Nielsen’s most recent Cross-Platform Report, young consumers under 34 watched more video on the Internet and their mobile devices in 2012 than they did in 2011.
The “under34” crowd isn’t a monolithic group, though, when it comes to video consumption. Young teenagers lead in watching content on their mobile phones (I can attest to this); 18% more than those 18-24 and 46 percent more than the next age group, 25-35. On the other hand, teens don’t seem to favor watching online, even though laptop ownership is higher in that group. The data shows that in the last quarter of 2012, those in the 18-24 age bracket spent nearly three times more consuming video on the Internet than 12 to 17-year-olds. The “oldest” of the young demos, the 25 to 34-year-olds, spent the most total time watching video across all platforms in 2012: 19 hours and 30 minutes more per month than 18 to24-year-olds and 40 hours and 54 minutes more a month than 12 to17-year-old consumers.
Whenever I speak to youth groups, I always let them how much of the sweet target they are to marketers. And I think the information I just shared supports this statement. The youth of today should feel empowered, too. Because not only are they the future, they are the present and marketers are watching.
Cheryl Pearson-McNeil is senior vice president of Public Affairs and Government Relations for Nielsen.
- Created on 26 April 2013
In a few weeks the Chicago Transit Authority will begin the Red Line South Reconstruction Project. This comprehensive project that stretches from Cermak Road to 95th Street will make much needed improvements to the Red Line. While this effort will force riders to use alternative routes for five long months, it is long overdue and worth the inconvenience. And, unlike some other major construction projects in recent history, there will be a strong African American presence from start to finish. That is good news, especially given the history of minority inclusion in Chicago.
When major construction projects are announced—especially ones that impact the South and West sides—the community questions that get asked first include: “Will this bring jobs? Will there be opportunities for Black entrepreneurs?” These concerns are rooted in decades of women and minority –owned businesses being left out of the equation when it comes to major construction projects. It is not without merit.
Historically, African American workers and business owners have been given little to no access to economic opportunities when major construction projects are planned in the communities where the majority of us live. The most recent example was the Metra Flyover project in Englewood where the fact the African American contractors got less than 1 percent of the work when the contract was awarded last spring led to protest rallies and marches.
From the start, CTA was committed to ensuring that the communities impacted by the Red Line Reconstruction Project also benefitted from the resources invested in the effort. To make this happen, they sought the help of the Chicago Urban League and other community organizations to work with them to ensure that African Americans had access to jobs and business opportunities.
On the jobs front, we’ve helped the community gain access to the jobs that have been created by the project including construction workers, bus drivers and traffic control aides. Already many people from the community have been hired and more are on track for employment. In addition, we’ve been a clearinghouse for contractor hiring and we have created a database of nearly 2,000 qualified workers and contractors for future projects.
We’ve also worked to ensure that African American entrepreneurs are connected to the subcontracting opportunities presented by the project. Since last spring the Chicago Urban League has worked with CTA to ensure that African American and women business owners could compete for the millions of dollars in construction contracts created by the system reconstruction. Through our Entrepreneurship Center, we worked with CTA to prepare and connect many African American and women-owned companies, or Disadvantaged Business Enterprises to the prime contractors on the track and station work.
The effort and focus paid off and we’ve got the numbers to prove it. For track work, total DBE contracts are $66.5 million with $40 million going to African American firms. For station work, DBE firms secured more than $17.5 million in contracts. Of those contracts 92 percent went to African American firms.
While the prime contractors are majority-owned firms, connecting African American subcontractors to this project gives those businesses the opportunity to grow their capacity so that they eventually will be able to compete as a prime contractor.
Among the Chicago-area African American firms with significant Red Line Reconstruction Project contracts are: Trim’s Trucking, E. King Construction, Terrell Materials, LiveWire Electrical Systems and security firm Kates Detective. Some of these companies are graduates of our Entrepreneurship Center programs that have prepared them to compete for, win and properly execute these lucrative opportunities. Another one of our program grads, LaGrange Crane Services, a woman-owned crane operating business, also scored a significant contract on this project.
These companies are proof positive that the right skills and preparation mixed with a commitment to diversity from those who issue government contracts, plus key community partnerships makes a good formula for access, opportunity and community investment.
So, as we make our way through the inconvenience of the Red Line South being shut down for five months, let’s remember that money spent on this major project will be reinvested in our community. Critically important to the Chicago Urban League, the success of this collaboration will not begin and end with this one project.
The work done here to create economic opportunity in our community will be used as a model for others to follow. Already, the City Colleges of Chicago and the Public Building Commission, are considering similar efforts to insure minority participation in the jobs and work generated by their upcoming large construction projects. Let’s hope this trend, that is a step in the right direction, becomes the rule and not the exception.
Andrea L. Zopp is president and CEO of the Chicago Urban League
- Created on 18 March 2013
As I write, Chaka Khan's empowering "I'm Every Woman" loops in my head – like a soundtrack. (By the way, have you seen her lately? All slim, trim and more fabulous than ever). It's Women's History Month and the lyrics to that iconic anthem should be resonating with all women, and those who love us, as we celebrate ourselves and the countless contributions we make everyday – both large and small – that keep the world turning.
No matter how small or far-reaching the radius of your world is every choice you make is important. Nielsen shines the light on women's choices and our dynamic impact as consumers with two new global reports: Does Gender Matter and 10 Things to Know About Today's Female Consumer.
I've said it before, and I'll say it again – "Vive la différence." Yes, we know that girls are just as smart as boys and women can do pretty much everything a man can – but, like it or not – our brains are wired differently. And, that's ok. Women are master multitaskers and there's a scientific reason for that. Who knew, right?
Nielsen's NeuroFocus research shows that "ability" is driven by what happens to developing brains in the womb. Traits like big-picture thinking and multitasking are hard-wired in women's brains, along with "gut" reasoning, social and verbal skills and the worry/empathy tendency. We balance work (either outside or in the home), take care of our families – nurture, budget, shop, schedule, run hither and yon – and keep it tight with ourselves as best we can.
Men's brains, on the other hand, are pre-conditioned for concrete thinking, goal-oriented tasks, logical solutions and competition/defense. (Cheryl's translation: give them one thing to do at a time if you really want something to get done).
How we think and respond influences the way companies and advertisers design their messages to us to achieve their economic bottom line. See how much power we have? These types of insights tell them that women respond to concepts that are authentic. Touch our hearts and you might earn our dollars. Even those of us who may be tomboys at heart, messages that focus on conflict simply aren't going to resonate.
And, you know how we love a bargain and will hunt high and low to find the best price? That's something American women have in common with our sisters around the world. A Nielsen survey of more than 29,000 people with Internet access in 58 countries shows that we women are browsers, no matter where we live – going for the best deal (in the store or online) while men are more likely to pay a higher price. That's because men are typically on a mission to just win (uh, get the item no matter what).
Here and across the globe, women are responsible for $12 trillion of the $18 trillion of global buying power. So, if marketers want our business, they need to offer products and services that reflect our needs. Consider these facts:
• Women worldwide are optimistic about their roles, with 90 percent reporting they believe their role is changing for the better.
• Worldwide, 70 percent of women surveyed have cut household spending over the past year in clothes, gas, electricity and entertainment outside the home.
• Women in the U.S. spend significantly more time on social media sites than men. We're online users of social media 44 percent more than men; and visit social media sites on our mobile devices 39 percent more than men.
• African-American women between 18-35 are 72 percent more likely to publish a blog or express our preferences online via links or "likes" than the average adult in this country.
• In the United States, African-American households are 127 percent more likely to include a single parent – usually a woman. (These are my people as I am one of them and I live by the mantra, "If Mama ain't happy, ain't nobody happy.")
• Women in the U.S. talk 28 percent more and text 14 percent more than men every month.
• Globally, women are 25 percent more likely than men to rely on friends or family for personal finance advice.
There's so much more wonderful information on www.nielsenwire.com that affirms women's power and influence as consumers. Take time to visit the site during March, and feel free to belt out a couple of lines along with Chaka: "I'm every woman. It's all in me . . ."
(Cheryl Pearson-McNeil is senior vice president of public affairs and government relations for Nielsen. For more information and studies go to www.nielsenwire.com.)
- Created on 27 February 2013
Throughout our history, Black women have drawn strength from a deep well inside them to overcome injustices, and wield power and influence to improve people’s lives. Take Rosa Parks, for instance. She was a quiet woman, an introvert. Not the kind of person one would expect to take a stand that would energize protesters and change the course of a movement. But one fateful day she found her voice and said ‘No.” That simple but fearless refusal to bend to segregation became a game-changer in the movement for racial equality.
Ms. Parks and other women from her generation seem to have been anointed with super human strength and an unflappable resolve to fight the status quo. But I believe that what dwelled in these women lives in countless other women right here in Chicago. Unfortunately, too often, we fail to tap into the leadership potential of Black women. And when we don’t we miss out.
Empowered women are game changers. As we transition from Black History Month to Women’s History Month in March, it’s worth reminding ourselves that there are women in our communities, churches, families and workplaces who have game-changing potential and proclivities. Yet, 13 years into the New Millennium, corporations, governments, political parties, clergy and yes, even some civil rights groups, continue to leave Black women out of the conversation.
Black women want to lead. Whether it’s in their homes, their communities, their churches or in the business world, modern women want their shot at the big chair, and it’s time we give it to them.
Chicago is a city in crisis with escalating gun and gang violence, high dropout rates, and no immediate solution to the high jobless rate among teenagers and young adults. During Women’s History Month, we’ll be reminded of influential Black women whose lives and legacies challenged the nation to live up to its principles. Three women come immediately to mind: Coretta Scott King, Betty Shabazz and Myrlie Evers-Williams. These women shared a similarly tragic fate in that each was married to a charismatic civil rights leader, became a widow when her husband was assassinated and continued to work for the movement and wield whatever influence she had to change oppressive laws and policies.
These women drew on their own sense of self- preservation – and each other- to keep husband’s legacies alive. But they also became leaders in their own right, finding their unique voices as they pursued justice and social change.
Another woman recently thrust into the national spotlight by tragic circumstances also comes to mind: Cleopatra Cowley- Pendleton, whose 15-yearold daughter, Hadiya, was killed Jan. 29 in a senseless shooting. Since then Ms. Cowley-Pendleton has emerged as an activist in the anti-violence movement. It is not a role she sought but neither has she run from it, adding her voice to those advocating for tougher gun laws.
“It’s my job to keep talking,” she has said in recent weeks.
It’s essential that we acknowledge the women whose shoulders we stand on, who dared to challenge the status quo and inspired change. Were it not for them, I would not have had the opportunities that I’ve had. I’m proud to be a part of an organization that gives women great leadership opportunities. More than one-third of the chief executives at Urban League affiliates across the nation are women. Many of them lead Urban Leagues in major urban centers like New York, Philadelphia and Washington, D.C. And I’m glad to serve in Illinois with sisters in the movement like Theodia Gillespie and Laraine Bryson who head Urban Leagues in Aurora and Peoria, respectively. These women were identified, valued, selected and empowered to make a difference.
Being an empowered woman does come with great responsibility but great outcomes. Among the business benefits of empowered women in leadership roles: increased organizational productivity, better financial results, and greater growth potential. Women are also risk takers. Studies have shown that women investors, for instance, take no fewer risks than their male counterparts and in certain business settings, women, in fact, are greater risk takers than men.
Today, our communities face major challenges including underfunded schools, violence in our streets, and the lack of job opportunities. Now, more than ever, we must continue tapping into the deep pool of talented women who have shown, throughout history, that they are more than willing to step up to the plate.
At the Chicago Urban League, we are committed to supporting and encouraging Black women to pursue leadership and to empower them through business ownership and career development to be the game changers history teaches us that they can be.
Andrea L. Zopp is president and CEO of the Chicago Urban League