Missing the Point About the Alpha Wife
The media is aflutter about a new study showing a growing number of women out-earning their husbands, a situation that has become more common in a recession in which men are losing jobs at a faster clip. There's even a catchy label to accompany the movement: alpha wives.
To which I say: Oh, boy, here we go again.
The story of breadwinning wives is the latest act in the work-family opera, an ongoing saga in which pundits perceive every morsel of news as a trend. Before alpha wives, we were consumed with women who were opting out of the job market. Never mind that this was a sliver of the female workforce. Never mind that most women have no choice but to earn a living. Headlines nonetheless trumpeted an exodus.
So now we have a reversal in the storyline. Stop the presses (or the Twitter updates): Some women are raking in more than their mates. This news isn't new, of course, nor is it surprising to anyone who's followed the steady rise of education levels and career opportunities for women. In fact, you might ask: What took so long?
Back in 1970, 4 percent of wives earned more money than their husbands. By 2007, that figure had climbed to 22 percent, according to a study released last week by the
Similarly, four decades ago, 28 percent of wives were less educated than their spouses, while 20 percent had more education. Those numbers had flipped by 2007: 28 percent of wives had more education while only 19 percent had less.
What has been lost in all this crowing about the new economics of marriage is a dose of reality.
Fact: The overwhelming majority of wives still earn less than their husbands, even when spouses have the same educational pedigree.
Fact: Women who do earn more don't conform to the media myth of the high-charging corporate lawyer married to the factory-floor supervisor. More commonly, neither spouse has a college degree, and the woman doesn't earn that much more than her husband.
But far more interesting than these numbers are the stories of couples navigating shifting social norms. Many are making their relationship work by dint of perseverance. They're adept at adapting, more interested in their personal pact than in how society views them.
Georg and Mercy, family friends, are the perfect example. She travels often for her job with
"I'm very proud of her," says Georg, who predicts that more men, especially younger ones, will accommodate changing gender roles.
They'll have to. In the end, the rise of wives, as the Pew study is titled, will be less about earning power and more about marriages based on equality and flexibility.
Little Girls Really Don't Need to Walk in Our Shoes
I'm a fan of sensible shoes -- the low-heeled, wide-toed variety that allows me to walk without limping or tripping. I save those shin-torturing, bunion-producing pumps for special occasions. So I don't understand the latest trend in little-girl fashion: kindergartners in high heels.
Marriage a la Mode
Ladies, you seem to be focusing on matrimony as the answer to your worries -- and overlooking a key truth about marriage today: that tying the knot is becoming more of a boon for men than it is for women. A recent Pew Research Center report confirms what the current recession is bringing home all too clearly, with more men being laid off than women
Helping Women Help the World
Nicholas Kristof and Sheryl WuDunn argue that "the brutality inflicted routinely on women and girls in much of the world" is "one of the paramount human rights problems of this century." Their statistics are numbing: every year, at least two million girls worldwide "disappear" due to gender discrimination. But Kristof and WuDunn go beyond moral outrage.
Family-friendly workplace benefits (flex time, job sharing, telecommuting, and so on) were on the rise before the recession of 2008 took hold. I've been wondering recently how bad a whacking this category of benefits has taken.
Women's stagnation in the corporate penthouse continues, according to Catalyst, a New York-based organization that aggregates data about and presses for women's advancement in the corporate hierarchy.
Mammograms: See Past the Controversy
Backlash to the shifting guidelines on breast cancer screenings highlighted one rather disheartening truth: When it comes to our health, we women may not be as empowered as we think. How else to explain the torrent unleashed when it was put before us that mammograms are not as effective for some women?
Sometimes Good Enough is Just Right
I've often joked that children are the most stressful factor in a marriage, especially for those of us who juggle work and family. Rushed, conflicted and usually overwhelmed, mothers who toil outside the home feel there aren't enough hours in the day to keep up with parenting obligations, job duties and household chores. Life turns into a never-ending to-do list, a blaring alarm that's can't be quieted
If You Have a Friend, You Have It All
After a few months' hiatus, I spoke to my best friend from childhood. Though we live hundreds of miles apart, we can tell each other anything, picking up the strands of various subplots -- children, siblings, work, health -- right where we left off. We vent, we rage, we analyze, we pick apart. We laugh. A lot. Mostly, though, we just let it all hang out. And my, my, my, that feels so dang good.
Websites for Traveling Women
Ed Perkins On Travel
Although most of the travel industry still thinks of travelers as traditional couples, an increasing number of women are traveling alone or with other women. Here's a brief overview of web sites tailored toward women travellers ...
Work-Life 'Balance' Laid Bare
Can you both tend the home fires and stoke a high-powered career? Is it possible to juggle the third-grade play with the 11th-hour executive-board meeting? If you take a few years off to raise Suzy and Jose, can you still reach the office mountaintop? These are questions that have been on women's minds for decades, but over the years the so-called work-life balance has become the accepted formula for women who want to 'have it all.' Now comments by former General Electric CEO Jack Welch have reignited the old debate ...
Recession Tip For Wives: Lay off Your Laid-off Husband
By Lindsay Lyon
Male breadwinners have lost their jobs at a greater clip than women during this recession. Roughly 74 percent of the approximate 6 million jobs lost since December 2007 have been men's, according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics. And more than a few therapists say they're seeing an uptick in relationship problems as a result. It's not so much that husbands are resentful of their breadwinning wives. Resentment, they're noting, often flows from the other side.
Time is Ripe for Enjoying Simple Things
By Ana Veciana-Suarez
Confusing times call for simple pleasures. It's the safest way to indulge with minimal payout. So now friends share frugal tips over store-brand coffee. Staycations have replaced the Riviera. A few have abandoned cars and opted for public transit. It's all about doing more with less, about being happy with enough.
(c) 2010, Ana Veciana-Suarez
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