Given the strides that women have made in higher education, it is not surprising that women are expanding their areas of influence.

In Wave Four of the industry-leading study “Women, Power & Money,” we find today’s women retaining their strength, leadership, and optimism amid ongoing economic uncertainty. Their leadership style is collaborative, and they readily share decision-making responsibility and the credit that goes along with it.

However, women’s leadership styles are also evolving — and now they think less about doing it all alone and more about leading their teams. Moreover, their identities are evolving as they grow. Compared to 2008, they are more likely to describe themselves as “ambitious and decisive” (and “stressed”). Despite the challenges, they delight in their roles of family leaders.

Sponsored by Fleishman-Hillard and Hearst Magazines, this 2012 study reflects that women today also have expanded their horizons. Almost three-quarters (73 percent) of the respondents are now on Facebook “liking” companies and products and influencing the purchase decisions of others. When it comes to the dynamics of the marketplace, they have “changed the game.”

We see this change in the large percentage of women who believe they “regularly influence friends and family to buy or not buy a particular product or service” (42 percent), up significantly from September 2008. In addition, 54 percent agree, “I feel it is my responsibility to help friends and family make smart purchase decisions.”

By far, their strongest concern is the economy. It weighs heavily on their minds and affects their shopping decisions. According to 71 percent of respondents, “Life is more complex today than it was before the recession” and 75 percent said they shop differently now than before the recession.

Economic concerns have intensified their particularly utilitarian approach to the marketplace. They seek value, quality, performance and, above all, substance.

Today’s women are consumers, broadcasters and amplifiers of ideas in the marketplace. Expect these recommendations and word-of-mouth dynamics to continue intensifying. Their leadership is expanding — not diminishing. Wise marketers will take heed that one size does not fit all. Ignorant marketers and advertisers who believe otherwise will suffer the consequences.

From The Herman Trend Alert, by Joyce Gioia, strategic business futurist. www.hermangroup.com.