The Female Breadwinner Debate
Recently, Time magazine ran a feature article, Women, Money and Power, about the rise of the female breadwinner in America, and why this phenomenon is good for everyone involved.
While at first glance I thought the article was going to simply discuss powerful female earners supporting lower-wage earning men, in truth the main point was focused more on the options available to modern families who are not solely dependent on the male for financial support in the way that the traditional American family was. The article made a number of interesting points through several real-life examples, and made a strong case for the upsides of this economic shift.
What was even more interesting to me than the examples cited in the article was a related discussion that ensued on Facebook regarding the idea of the female breadwinner, particularly in the sense of what I initially thought the article was about – high income women supporting lower-income men.
There were several opinions expressed; it seems some women are quite comfortable with the idea of supporting a man who makes considerably less than them and choose not to limit their options in partners, while others have an expectation that a potential partner should be more or less of an equal contributor. There was even a discussion of the perceived pitfalls of relationships in which the man doesn’t enjoy the same level of “success” (either monetary or intellectual) as the woman, and how some
of those men have a difficult time relating to the career priorities and successes of the woman, dooming the relationship to failure.
I’ll admit that I’m personally in the camp of equal contributing partner. I’m very comfortable with the success I’ve achieved thus far in my career, and I’m proud of what I see the amazing women around me achieve. But I’m not comfortable with a complete role reversal in which the female takes over as the head of household and the primary financial supporter of the couple/family. If I’m working hard for my money, I’d like a partner who works just as hard and contributes a similar amount.
As a modern, successful woman, should I be more comfortable with the idea of supporting someone?
The statistics are telling. The percentage of women with college degrees in comparison to their male counterparts is increasing; the Time article cited that currently 60% of college students are women, and they now earn the majority of masters and doctorate degrees. With that, it stands to reason that more and more women are or will be rising to higher power and earning positions within companies around the country and the world. With this shift, will it become more necessary for a successful single woman to become comfortable with the idea of supporting a man who perhaps has not achieved the same level of success as her? Or is it reasonable to still expect and hope for a more equal partner?
What do you think?
Photo credit iStockphoto