Informed decision-making: a narrative review of working female middle-class consumers
In South Africa, women make up 45% of the employed population; yet they still carry most of their household’s responsibilities. Although women have served as a target group in research – as household gatekeepers in terms of purchases, food preparation and health – scholarly studies of informed decision-making among working women in particular are limited. However, the growing number of women in the formal workforce, along with global and national policies and initiatives that address these women, suggests that the wants, needs and decision-making of this subgroup of consumers warrant special attention from researchers. This exploratory narrative review of international and South African literature, uniquely applied to the context of informed consumer decision-making, focuses on middle-class working female consumers (W-FC) in different fields, and their needs and wants, information acquisition and decision-making, challenges they experience, consequences of these challenges, and coping strategies they employ. Working women face specific issues that are related to role balancing at home and at work, as well as market-related challenges that place a burden on their information acquisition ability and purchase decision-making. These issues also affect their psychosocial and physical well-being in different ways than their male colleagues. W-FC adopts coping strategies in terms of their need to make significant career and family decisions, employ support systems to assist with time management and decision-making, change their behaviour, and de-stress. Research that addresses the informed decision-making capabilities of W-FC and that takes into account their unique conditions and requirements, is therefore needed to provide a foundation for developing effective interventions to improve their well-being. Our review offers a valuable baseline for examining the challenges and coping strategies used by women internationally and also by South Africa’s middle-class working women, and how these may affect informed decision-making. It also offers suggestions for areas of future research.