Thursday, January 26, 2006

The Money Battles of the Sexes

The comments on the subway remark/ diamond ring story have brought up lots of interesting issues that deserve a post of their own!
Here's a few of my thoughts, and let's hear yours!

Some people have a double standard about equality between the sexes: they believe women should get equal pay for equal work, but they think men are cheap if they don't pay for dates. Some men would love to share the costs of a date-- others never let a woman pay even if she offers. Some women feel that letting men always pay puts them in an uncomfortably passive role. Other women like to feel that they are being taken care of.

On average, women are still paid less than men.

Women tend to bear more of the burden of housework and childcare, even when both husband and wife work full time. (But men and women have different perceptions about how well they share the housework!) How does this relate to money matters?

What kind of messages do children get? Boys get the message that they will have to be responsible for themselves and their families in the future. Girls have traditionally gotten the message that they must find a husband who is a good provider. Even today, girls may get the message that they should have a career and take care of themselves, but they are unlikely to be told they should prepare to be the main breadwinner in a family.

There have been some recent articles about a growing trend among young women at Ivy League colleges who despite being smart, ambitious and ideally positioned for long-term career success, say they plan to quit their jobs to be stay-at-home moms.

I mentioned in the previous post that among my friends, couples where the women out-earn the men happen to be more common than those where men out-earn the women. Is this a total fluke? Is it something that is more common than people think? Do people not want to admit they have this kind of relationship? If so, who's more embarrassed about it, the woman or the man?

Have at it, folks...


Caitlin said...

I think Newsweek did a whole spread about women earning more than their mates maybe about a year ago. It was interesting, but I don't remember a lot of the details other than they were saying it was becoming more common, and does create challenges (obviously)

Money has long been associated with, and used to wield, power in relationships and if a couple isn't openly and honestly managing the money as a team (regardless of genders involved) then it seems they are most likely destined to suffer power struggles or worse.

It can be so insidious, and I think we've all seen it happen all around us.

The truth is that both parties bear equal responsibility regardless of who receives a bigger paycheck (aka "evidence that what they do for work is valued higher by society") but clearly we've been socialized a lot to associate money with "providing for" and to de-value non-monetary contributions to a partnership and family, so this sort of shift is quite a challenge.

So, I think that it's becoming more prevalent, and folks are still struggling a lot with it. It bucks the imprint of hundreds (thousands?) of years of gender training.

Poe said...

Among my closest friends (three couples), all the girls earn more than the guys. They're the breadwinners of the household...and of course, they complain and pressure their men to earn more all the time! It's a good sign I think that women are starting to earn more.

Tiredbuthappy said...

My partner and I earn about the same amount hourly, altho I work full time and he works half-time. We're both librarians and finished school at about the same time, altho he's 13 yrs. older. We've got an unusual agreement in that I worked part time til our son was 2, and then I increased my hours to full time and it's his turn to be home with the kid 2 days a week.

I love this arrangement and feel like it's been great for us. I want my son to see that both men and women can be nurturing, and both can be successful professionally.

But sometimes my programming kicks in and I think I should be Supermom--doing all the parenting, and somehow keeping my house clean, and holding down a job on top of it. It's hard to make my political views about gender jibe with my sense of self worth.

carolyn said...

Regarding those Ivy league women, if those stay at home moms leave their fate in the hands of their husbands, chances are that a fair percentage (51% these days?) of them will get hosed. (I refer to all the blogging re USA Today article on the impact of marriage and divorce on wealth). One can find fault with this report, but overall, it's true. Sad but true.

Anonymous said...

Whenever I read an article quoting stats about women earning less than men, it's frequently either stated or implied that this clearly demonstrates discrimination against women. That may be part of the problem (and no doubt it's wrong when it happens) but I think there may be other reasons behind that statistic. I believe a lot of this may have to do with exactly what Madame X said in the original post about the messages we get when we are children. Consider this personal account:

Three years ago, my manager had wanted me to take on some serious new responsibilities for a paltry 3% raise over my already entry-level salary, and I knew I wasn't going to accept that. In the days before I was supposed to meet with my manager about the new position, I meticulously prepared my arguments about why I deserved more money. I got advice from veterans (male and female) of the office. I researched and found estimates on what some of the "extras" I'd done on the job would have cost had we hired someone on the outside to do the same thing. I prepared for that meeting as if I were Johnny Cochran and my manager was Judge Ito.

After a few weeks of back and forth with my manager, I ended up getting a 20% pay increase to take on the new responsibilities.

Now, I'm close (in a friend way) to two older female colleagues, who recently asked me if it would be OK if their "representative" contacted me to answer questions, because they're filing a complaint against our manager. I was of particular interest because of that large percentage raise three years ago. Their complaint is arguing that our manager has a history of giving better raises to the men of the office than to the women. In fact, one of the pair said she hadn't received a single raise in the ten years she'd served under him.

I then asked if she'd ever met with him to ask for a raise. She said no.

The other coworker had asked for and gotten one or two raises in her history here. I believe I heard her say both were in the neighborhood of 3%.

Anonymous said...

Yes, your situation with your friends is a fluke, as every demographic statistic would bear out. It sounds like what people call "selection bias".

A better question might be, why are you only friends with the minority of women who out-earn their husbands? What don't you like about women who are in relationships with men who earn more?

Madame X said...

Excellent point about negotiating for a raise-- a lot of women just don't do it! We tend to be too shy about it, or afraid of being seen as pushy.

Re. my choice of friends, I am sure coincidence plays a larger role in that than any personal choice not to associate with high-earning men. Publishing is an industry where there are a lot of women at all levels. And I think in NYC in general, there are just a lot of single women, gay people, etc. that might lead to "traditional couples" being a smaller proportion of many people's social groups than they might otherwise be.
Or maybe it's all the Valerie Solanas Fan Club meetings I go to, who knows?

Anonymous said...

this bunk about women earning less than men has no application to my industry--the legal profession in large law firm in new york where pay is scale across the board and publicized widely. now, many women will ad that among the partnership ranks, women tend to be underrepresented to which I say, that has nothing to do with sexism but rather the inertial fact that women, overwhelmingly more than men, tend to drop out due to burn out, family issues, stress, or whatever else issue derails one's ascension to the partnership ranks. this is fact, seen firsthand by me. thus, in my field, women are NOT paid less than men and that argument is bogus. If anything, women are treated with kid gloves for fear of sex harrassment suits which, contrary to popular belief need not have any sexual coercion involved.

Anonymous said...

and another thing, this reversion of supposedly highbrow "ivy league" women back to the proverbial kitchen is a long time coming. You would think that the educated among us would be educated enough to realize that the work of raising children is the most satisfying and soul-filling work known to man (besides maybe being a professional baseball player). I have always said that "women's lib" was really "ugly women's lib" because it was spearheaded by women ashamed of their inability to produce and contribute to functioning families. Rather, an invasion to the workforce, truth be told, spurred on by WW II (give women theire due), has resulted in a deterioration of the nuclear family which, laugh as you liberal types may at its demise, has caused the downfall of our society. Kids being raised by nannies (among those with means) or by no one (remember latch key kids? I was one of them) or by feeble grandparents or mysoginistic (sp?) pedophilial relatives is a bad thing. Children should be raised by their mothers, period. The entry into the workforce of U.S. mothers has indeed contributed economically to the U.S. economy, no doubt, but it along with technology has also led to thede-familialization of the children of our country, which is a bad thing. So now, we are all rich, healthy, smooth-skinned highbrows with undernourished children just waiting to blow our heads off with "assault" rifles.

ok-- i'm done. dont worry, im not unabomber redux. ; )

Caitlin said...

Anon...if raising children is the most satisfying and soul-filling work known to "man" why do you insist children be "raised by the mothers, period"? Shouldn't both genders get to contribute equally to raising children and be able to enjoy such soul-satisfaction? I don't really see your "logic".

And not all so-called "latch key kids" would agree with you...I certainly don't.

Anonymous said...

my use of the word "man" was the general sense, which includes women. A man's soul satisfaction is in his provision of economic abundance for his family. next question?

mapgirl said...

Wow. Anonymous is a coward for not leaving 'his' name on those remarks.

I don't know that a man's *sole* (or was the pun intended?) satisfaction comes from providing for his family. Nor do I think a woman is the only possible nuturer for children. That's a complete falsehood.

What I do know is that there are good people in this world who raise their children and save their money at the same time who are both men and women.

I think a lot of women do not speak up and demand more money for themselves. I think a lot of men don't either. I am not a passive person and I have climbed up the salary ranks, fallen, and climbed up again because I have had the courage to ask for a raise, or leave when I didn't get one. I don't consider my job to be my safety net. I have counseled many a friend to speak up and demand more money from their employers or move to a place that will value them. No one is looking out for you but you.

I have fallen down many times, emotionally and financially. I have been the beneficiary of Economic Outpatient Care and I know those tables are going to turn very soon as my parents start pushing 70 and look to retire.

I lack brothers so I know that the only one to take care of my future is me. Despite my parents' old school notion that I need to get married and have grandchildren, my parents were also the ones pushing me to make a successful career for myself and get a strong education.

I get a lot of mixed messages, but my parents have given me some sound judgement to see through their b.s. and have supported me whenever I needed help.

FWIW, I make more than my boyfriend and it bothers neither of us. He is asset rich and salary poor, and I am the opposite. What's important is that we agree about what's important when we spend the money or save it.

Anonymous said...

my gf has about the same salary level as you mp, and it does not bother me that i make more than 3 1/2 times more than her in salary, nor does it bother her (of course). however, when it comes to nurturing our children, should we have any, i will leave that to her (primarily) and I will continue to work. Personally I do not want a nanny or anyone outside the family (i would consider her parents) staying with my children. Unfortunately, that means one of us has to earn enough (that being me). From my perspective, I will be proud of that. Unfortunately, not everyone has the economic means to accomplish this, which is, as I said, bad. Children need constant supervision, most certainly preferably by a parent (IMHO, the mother).

and no, I am not a coward "mapgirl" for not leaving my "name". Rather, I am putting in my anon $.02. My opinions are of course my own.

and yes, the pun was intended.

Best regards,