When it comes to how major demographic shifts are shaping our world, there are no two names more widely respected than Maddy and Ken Dychtwald, cofounders of Age Wave. A multimillion-dollar enterprise with a time-honored reputation, Age Wave is the nation’s foremost thought leader on population aging and its profound social and economic implications. Two and a half years ago, in our September/October 2008 issue, we spoke with Ken about this shift and “the new midlife.” This issue, we visit with the other half of the equation.

Maddy Dychtwald’s new book
Influence begins by chronicling the ascent of women as an economic force: in 2009, women held 49 percent of U.S. non-farm jobs; from 1991 to 2001 the number of women earning $100,000 or more tripled. Dubbing this growing economic bloc a “sleeping giantess,” Dychtwald quotes past U.S. Labor Secretary Robert Reich: “I wouldn’t be surprised if, in ten years, the typical woman in the workforce was earning more than the typical man.”

But that is not the book’s conclusion, only its starting place: Dychtwald and her coauthor Christine Larson go on to explore the impact this shift is having on the world. If you’ve ever wondered, “What would the world look like if, instead of being run by men, it was run by men and women equally?”—then read on. Because Maddy Dychtwald has some authoritative answers to that age-old question. — J.D.M.

Something that intrigued me in your study, “Women, Money and Power,” is the discovery that women exhibit distinctly different kinds of behavior than men in relation to business.

That’s right. There had been a lot of studies on women and money, but they tended to cover the same bases. How much do women have? How much do they spend? They didn’t provide much insight into what actually drives women.

That’s what we were interested in exploring.

We first have to realize that women have all kinds of different points of view. Some we’re going to agree with, some we’re not. Marketers talk about “the women’s market,” as if it’s a clearly defined niche market segment, while in fact, it’s half the population! We are talking about a very diverse population group. So I want to be careful about generalizations, because generalizations are often dangerous.

That said, there were several findings from our research that I found fascinating.

First, by a significant margin, the women we surveyed said that the very best thing about having money was the security and peace of mind that comes along with it.

The men we interviewed were much more likely to say that the best thing about money was the freedom it brought with it.

Security versus freedom: two very different ways of looking at the world.

Did you talk to my wife and me for this study?! Apparently you did.

[laughs] It’s the same thing for Ken and myself. A few years ago we came into some money, and we sat down with our financial advisor to discuss what to do with it. I told him I wanted to pay off the house. He looked at me, then he looked at Ken and rolled his eyes.

“Now, really, Maddy,” he said, “there are far better things you could be doing with your money if you really want to get good returns.”

I knew that in the typical financial-planning perspective, this man was absolutely right. This was not your normal smart thing to do with your money. But I wanted peace of mind.

Ken agreed with me, and we went ahead and did it.

And you know what? We turned out to be right. Because the following year, when the big mortgage debacle happened and everybody was suddenly frightened about their financial security, we weren’t—because we didn’t have a mortgage to worry about.

It’s interesting to look at those two contrasted values, security versus freedom, in terms of what created that whole mortgage debacle and economic collapse in the first place.

I think you’re exactly right. If women had been in charge of Wall Street and the banking industry, would that all have happened? I don’t think so.

And by the way, looking at the statistics today versus just a few years ago, when we did our study, men are starting to be swayed by women’s point of view concerning security and peace of mind.

Today the top guns on Wall Street are all still men—but a lot of women are being appointed to positions where they are actually creating the regulations Wall Street will have to follow in the future.

What else did the study show?

There were two other findings I thought were fascinating.

First, when it comes to money, men see themselves as warriors, while women see themselves as worriers. The men we interviewed were twice as likely as the women to say they would take significant financial risks.

Women have a deep fear of losing it all. A woman I interviewed labeled it “delusions of poverty,” which I think is very descriptive. What is particularly interesting is that women who earn more than $100,000 a year are twice as likely to have these delusions of poverty. Money is a deeply emotional issue.

I’d think that either mindset could be dangerous.

Absolutely. The delusions-of-poverty mindset is dangerous, and so is being a full-out warrior, as we saw recently on Wall Street. The point is that it’s good to have both perspectives. We need the best of men and the best of women taking care of things.

The other clear gender divide we found was that women are far more likely than men to put the financial needs of others ahead of their own needs.

In fact, for women, “caring for family” was the second-highest value of having money, while for men it was way down the priority list.

One financial adviser we interviewed said that upon winning the lottery, most men would buy expensive toys and most women would help their kids and relatives.

How is this shifting the nature of how we do business in the world?

We see the economic impact rippling out in a variety of ways throughout the economy—in the work place, in the marketplace, in every aspect of our lives.

For example, a Catalyst study showed that when businesses hire more women and appoint more women to their boards of directors and senior executive committees, they actually improve their bottom line. Several other studies have shown similar findings.

And by the way, there’s a “magic number”: you need at least three women on a board of directors in order to feel any real impact. Having just one is typically seen as a token, and having two just tends to create conflict. But once you have three women on the board, suddenly you see mentorships emerging, coalitions and collaborations being formed, and the women’s agendas being taken more seriously, all of which has a very positive effect.

Employees begin to realize that the values of both men and women are being reflected in the way the corporate board or executive committee performs—and this has a huge impact.

For instance, collaboration starts becoming a far more important value than it ever was in the past, because women exemplify that particular characteristic so beautifully. Suddenly work place policy begins being a little bit more family-friendly.

Also, family policy is considered as just that: family policy, and not “women’s issues.” We used to see things like day care as woman’s issues. Now we think of them as family issues—and that’s a huge change in mindset.

Is that because the traditional roles of men in the household have also shifted?

That’s exactly right, and that’s crucial to keep in mind. We’re not talking only about women here, but about women and men.

Many of the men I interviewed for the book said that this shift has also opened a large opportunity for men. As one expert put it, back in the 1980s women were given the opportunity to walk into the world of men through work: they got to row with both oars. Up until now, men couldn’t do that; they were stuck in the role of bread-winner. But today they’re truly beginning to transform themselves.

In the 1970s only about 3 percent of married women out-earned their husbands. Today it’s closer to 25 percent, giving a lot of men the opportunity to take on the role of home-maker. Today you see men in general getting more involved in family life.

While working on the book, I held discussion groups all over the country, and a lot of men in their twenties, thirties and forties said they felt sorry for boomer men, who didn’t have the opportunity to take on that role in their family life.

I remember one man in his mid-twenties who said, “I really want to marry a woman who earns more than I do, because I’d like to be the stay-at-home parent. I love kids.” The younger guys in the group were nodding their heads—but the older men, those in their sixties and seventies—looked at this guy like he was an alien.

With so many corporations out-sourcing their work to independent contractors, it seems there is a lot more flexibility than there was even twenty years ago in terms of integrating work and home. To what extent is that having a synergetic impact with this other shift?

I think that shift is fantastic, and we need it to happen far more than it is.

But I think we need to get beyond flexibility alone, because this issue also converges with longevity. People are living longer and needing to work longer, and the way the work force is designed is so vastly different from how it was just thirty years ago. We used to think about having our job for life; when’s the last time you heard anyone say that?

We’re seeing some cutting-edge companies beginning to address this.

At the forefront are consulting firms, like McKenzie and Deloite. These companies work their men and women—and they pretty much employ equal numbers of men and women—super hard. They are often on the road four days a week.

These companies realized they were having a lot of burn-out in these employees they were spending so much time and money training. They recognized that if they wanted to hold on to their best and most talented people, they needed to look at their people’s careers a little differently.

They realized that careers are no longer a linear progression, where you start at the bottom and work your way up that ladder of success. Instead, careers come in sine waves, and these companies are giving their employees the choice to expand or contract their career involvement depending on what’s happening in their personal lives.

For example, my daughter just entered the work force, and she goes all out for her work right now—but ten years from now, my guess is she’ll want to put more of her attention on raising her kids (assuming she might have children). Then her kids will be in school, and she may enter yet another stage of her career where she is go, go, go again.

I’ve seen that happen with myself. When I was raising my children, I didn’t stop working, but I worked more part-time, flex-time. I knew I was sacrificing some forward motion in my career, but I also knew I was going to live a long life and wasn’t going to retire at fifty or sixty.

You speak in the book about the impact of this demographic and economic shift on the values of social justice and even world peace. Can you address that?

In many ways, we’ve always considered that getting women educated and earning and giving them some financial independence is the right thing to do to. But now it’s becoming the bright thing to do.

Developing nations are beginning to realize and act on this. The World Economic Forum’s Gender Report tells us that as developing nations educate their young women and girls, they see their GDP go up. Suddenly they’re seeing that it’s good economic sense to educate their young women.

That same report tells us that when women earn money in developing nations, they reinvest 90 to 95 percent of that income in their community and their family, which might mean bringing good water or electricity to their community, or getting their kids educated.

With men, it’s around 30 to 40 percent.

My goodness, that’s a huge difference!

In developing nations, men tend to take their earnings and invest it in tobacco and alcohol. That’s not a judgment, it’s just what’s so.

When the powers that be look at these economic realities, of course they are going to start to invest in young women and girls. It makes economic sense. They want their countries to thrive.

When micro-financing was first introduced by Muhammad Yunus and the Grameen Bank in Bangladesh, they never set out specifically to create a program for women. In fact, they probably made significantly more loans to men than to women, because that was the reality in a country like Bangladesh.

But today 90 percent of the Grameen Bank’s loans are to women. Why? Because women repay those loans in such higher numbers than men, it makes economic sense to make more loans to women.

You said men tend to “invest in alcohol and tobacco.” That’s a really interesting use of the word invest.

I love men, and the men I interviewed for the book were so supportive of women. They recognized the fact that we have to get the best talent into positions of power, and that we need both men and women there, because that’s the only way we will bring those different characteristics and values to the table.

Our world needs a partnership society.

The gender gap in emerging economies tends to be huge, so I’d think if that kind of economic impact is being recognized and acted upon there, it’s going to accelerate dramatically. Because emerging economies are emerging fast.

That’s right. In the book we describe it as leap-frogging, and I believe that will happen in some cases.

In some countries, there are significant social mores in place that stand in the way. For example, Saadia Zahidi, who heads up the Global Gender Gap Report for the World Economic Forum, is Pakistani and she talks about the reality in Pakistan.

One reason Pakistani women are discouraged from pursuing an education and getting a job, she says , is that there is no way for them to physically get to these work places safely, and their families are worried about their security.

For them, simply creating safe transportation changes the game.

Have you spent any time with network marketing groups? I’m curious as to whether you see any shift happening in the role of women in network marketing.

I’ve spoken at meetings for a variety of different networking companies. I love talking to these groups. They make great audiences, because they get so excited and energized.

I’ve certainly looked at the model, because it is something both older adults and women are drawn to, in part because of the flexibility they offer. Network marketing is something you can do while you’re living life.

Another reason is that with very little up-front investment, you can become an entrepreneur and experience some success in being your own boss, while at the same time being part of a network—and I think the combination of those two is very appealing, especially for women.

I’ve also noticed that for a lot of people, it’s not just women pursuing it, or just men, but it’s women and men. I’ve seen a lot of couples figuring it out together. One partner might have the business acumen while the other might have more of the social, networking personality.

Still, and this is just my anecdotal perception, I’ve noticed that in network marketing, as in the business world at-large, women have done a great job of getting to the middle place, where they are doing really quite well—and yet it’s still men who are at the top.

It’s also still men who tend to be up in the front of the room. You don’t see nearly as many women as men up on stage doing the big talks at the events.

It’s very interesting. I wish there were more women up there. As a keynote speaker myself, I love speaking to large groups in the world of network marketing as well as other industries.

Obviously, many of these companies are full of highly successful women. But it would be great if more of them understood how savvy it would be for them to create space for more women to take up positions of leadership in those organizations.

I’d say that network marketing is ripe for women moving into positions of power and making the entire profession stronger and more credible than ever. I’d love to see that transformation take place.

Perhaps as that begins to happen, those companies will see their GDP go up, much like the emerging economies you mentioned.

You know, I believe that could definitely happen.

Is there anything else you want to add?

I want to emphasize two things.

First, I do believe that women will be the biggest change agent of the twenty-first century. And second, this is changing the game for women and for men.

Some men view it as, “If women win, we lose.” But that’s just not the case. This is about achieving a win for women and for men. It’s about creating more of a partnership society. That is the best way to take advantage of all the most talented humans on this earth so that we can make the world a better place and experience more success on every level.