Liza Mundy is an award winning Washington Post reporter and author; her latest book is –
THE RICHER SEX: How the new majority of female breadwinners is transforming our culture (Simon and Schuster)
40% of American wives now earn more than their husbands and one of the results has been an extraordinary spike in the sales of top of the range kitchen equipment. It seems that no matter where they prepare meals – men are the chefs; women remain the family cooks!!!
And high flying corporate women are coming home to be confronted with elaborate three course meals that call for enthusiastic appreciation! (Glass of wine and a sandwich preferable.)
There are two major reasons that women are earning more than their husbands.
- Women are better educated; as is the case in most western countries more women are going to university and more women are gaining higher grades – this helps to account for their higher rates of pay in general (though this doesn’t mean that men and women doing the same job with the same skills get the same pay).
- As a result of the global financial crisis many of the men who worked in manufacturing industries, in construction and other industrial areas have lost their jobs
- At the same time there is increasing demand for the traditional female occupations in the service industries; education, health, nursing, childcare and financial areas have been expanding.
- Women now are also the majority in the professions of accountancy and auditing
- Women make up 56% of medical students in Britain and the Royal College of Physicians predicts that female general practitioners will outnumber men within the next year or so.
- Women are the majority of vets (80% of vet school graduates), pharmacists and therapists; and also 60% of optometry graduating classes now are women
- The NY Times noted that in 2011 men who wanted to see a male psychologist or therapist would have a hard time finding one.
The chapter with all these case studies, statistics and explanations of change comes under the heading – THE BIG FLIP. It makes fascinating reading. The second section – THE BACKLASH is a bit like Sheryl Sandberg’s price women have to pay when you stand up for yourself or ask for pay increase.
But The Richer Sex covers a far wider range of women and their experiences of the workplace – and perils of being the breadwinner. Fewer statistics and more women’s voices across the socio-economic range
As Lois Frankel commented at a great seminar that I was at yesterday courtesy of Business Chicks (NICE GIRLS DON’T GET THE CORNER OFFICE) – ‘even when men aren’t the breadwinners they like to think they are’.
You can see how this reversal of roles– that is taking place so rapidly – is causing major upheavals in the social order. One of the most desired goals that women have had to sacrifice is the opportunity for ‘marrying up’.
For as long as we have had history books, (and novels) a woman’s status has depended on that of the man she has married; and women have wanted older, wealthier, better educated and taller men! And as women become better educated, have better jobs, and wait longer to get married – there simply aren’t enough men to for them to ’marry up’ to any more.
Liza Mundy does report on some men who are looking for high wage earning wives – but some of the examples look more like exploitation than true love. But it seems that there is an increasing number of house-husbands with part time jobs who are more than happy to stay at home and raise the kids and engage in gourmet cooking.
(This reversal in roles is also seen as a possible factor in the rise of rates of domestic violence. Like all great social change its not all fun and games.)
The final section – there are others – is OUR FEMALE FUTURE – and it is worth reflecting on, because if it is going to be female, we had better start thinking about how we are going to better manage the planet, the nation, the people, the work, the children and the home. A role reversal wouldn’t be satisfactory and it certainly wouldn’t be feminism.
I’m sure all these issues will be discussed on the 8th September at the Brisbane Writers Festival. 10.00am State Library of Queensland.
The topic – The F Word – Monica Dux, Kate de Goldi, Dawn Barker – dale spender as moderator! www.bwf.org.au