By Amanda Fox
It has been said more than once that right now, as you read this, we are witnessing the lift-off phase of the era of women. Male dominance has been the norm so long as history has been recorded and there is no refuting that. Men made the laws, ran nations, ruled religion and had opportunities women could only dream of seeing one day. Slowly, bit by bit, women began gaining entrance to the world of men, but it was primarily because men allowed it. It was on their terms. Now, women are kicking doors in and demanding the same opportunities. Make no mistake about it – women are not asking for a handout because they are women. Women are asking to have the same chances to succeed or fail that their male counterparts have. To that end, change is taking place.
More women are attending and graduating universities than ever before. The education gap has been closed and the pendulum has swung in their favor. More and more women are cracking fields that were previously closed to them and although progress may be slow, opportunity has been seized. Women are more involved in politics on a global scale and are no longer considered party tokens, but rather party leaders and policy makers. More and more women are holding positions as CEOs of Fortune 500 companies and sitting on their boards of directors. Strides are being made everywhere – aside from true pay equality where women still earn 22.5% less than their male counterparts for the same position.
That has not stopped women from becoming the family breadwinner, however. Women from their twenties up to their sixties are bringing home the bacon at a greater rate than ever before. In a column by Margaret Wente, “Plastic women, cardboard men”, an unidentified male who spoke to Hannah Rosin stated:
“All the things we need to be good at to thrive in the world we imagine existing 10 or 20 or even 50 years from now are things that my female friends and competitors are better at than me. Than us.”
It is not just that fellow that is saying this. It is becoming clearer and clearer that over the past quarter century, men tended to look at what career was good at the moment to plan their future around. Women, on the other hand, tended to look at what was projected to be the most in need in the future. It goes beyond that into a whole other aspect of adaptability. Women tend to be more willing to go back to school, if necessary, to learn a whole new career field in order to continue to move forward and support their family. Men tend to spend their time looking for another position in the field they know, usually at equal or better pay, even if their search is unsuccessful for several years.
That trend does not apply to every single person of either gender by any means, but statistics do bear this out as being an increasing reality. Some researchers believe the root of the problem falls squarely on the shoulders of male pride. Men seem more unwilling to take low wage menial jobs to finance their education in a more in-demand better paying field. There is also a marked reluctance to take positions in fields that are generally deemed to be female despite many of those being tabbed as the careers with the most demand and stability.
In the US, 31.2% of all men are either out of work or not seeking employment at all. In some cases, men are not looking for work because they have a wife that is willing to support the family financially. 40% of married women in the US now out-earn their husbands. In some cases, women in this position have confidentially cited problems with that. One woman, we will refer to as A.G. gave her view of the issue to us for this article.
“The problem isn’t so much going out and earning a living to support the family, the problem is when your husband does not take on at least some of the burdens of keeping up the house which entails caring for the kids, helping keep the house clean, grocery shopping and taking the initiative to be involved in the activities traditionally thought of as ‘mom’s’ domain. To complicate the problem, there are always strings of excuses as to why these things are either not done or done poorly as well as a lack of ambition to find some form of employment to help keep even a little spending money in their pocket. In some ways, it is like having a physically full grown child. To see someone with so little ambition is far from sexy and that creates a whole different set of intimacy issues on top of everything else.”
Consider the position women are moving into now. In the well known Hannah Rosin survey (cited above), she found that since 1965, the average woman does about 50% more paid work than before and a full third more time spent on childcare. It boils down to about an extra 16.6 hours of work per week and it comes at the expense of housework and primarily free time. Men on the other hand are doing less paid work, only slightly more childcare time and have no measurably significant drop in their free time.
Only time will tell if the men that have failed to adapt to changing times will catch on eventually. Those who have are rightfully thriving in numerous ways. For many years, men told us there was no shame in staying home and caring for the house, the family and their needs – they were out bringing home the bacon after all. Now, we may see over the next half century or so if that shoe fits on a man’s foot as well. Life moves fast, you adapt and overcome or you get left behind.