Divorce, the wage gap, and household labor? What?

By Eliana Huffman

What if the way gender is performed in your marriage affects things like how much money you make? And what if your culture affects this even further? Researcher Lynn Prince Cooke sought to answer this question in regards to how couples split household labor in the United States compared to Germany, two different countries and cultures, and how this split affected the wage gap.

The results were pretty surprising. In the United States, equally shared household labor between husbands and wives increased female partners’ salaries, and led to lower chances of divorce. In Germany, however, the women’s salaries were also increased, but they experienced greater chances of divorce.

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What Cooke boiled it down to was this: in most cultures, men are prescribed the role of economic production (i.e. “breadwinning) in a relationship with a female partner. Women are prescribed the role of domestic (re)production, an equally important task yet one that is often shunned for being “women’s work.”

“Women’s continued responsibility for the domestic sphere inhibits their ability to attain employment equality with men (Ferree 1990; Hartmann 1981; Hobson 1990). So as an interlocking system, the gendered nature of both paid and unpaid work blocks the ability to achieve gender equality in either domain (Ferree 1990, p. 874).”

While many people believe Europeans to be far more liberal than Americans, Cooke found through analyzing longitudinal survey and interview data from the German and United States governments that in West Germany people believed much more strongly in certain genders being assigned certain household tasks, and Germany’s increasing divorce rates are more likely a result of men resenting the change in power dynamic between genders—rather than actual familial issues caused by women doing less housework and men doing more. In fact, the data said families were equally attended to regardless of who took care of these tasks.

Take that, people who think women who work are abandoning their families.

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Germany’s social policies still stem from a post-WWII era where having a male breadwinner was extremely idealized, and its culture still surprisingly reflects that. The United States, in contrast, has a longer standing history of allowing women more equal opportunity to achieve the status men do in a professional context—other cultural norms may contradict the ability for women to achieve success, but our policies take a more hands-off approach to the issue entirely.

Is the solution to address outdated policies that affect women decades later? For sure. But there are many solutions to this problem, and it is a truly a big problem indeed—divorcing your life partner is not only expensive, but upsetting, painful and just plain messy.

One big solution that we can all take on a personal level is to talk out issues of resentment and labor expectations with our partners, and come to that conversation with the knowledge that more work at home means more money in the back for you both.

Another is to only pick partners that are down to share the workload equally in the first place. Choosing to share a life with someone who you know is already on the same page in this regard is a much less frustrating alternative than having to actively work through a problem that could be potentially avoided.

Lastly, of course, be sure to praise men and couples who you see actively working towards this egalitarian goal when you can. Validation is often so meaningful to people, and dishing it out can be good for both an individual relationship as well as society at large.

What Jessica Day Taught Us About Work and Play

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By Erika Harrington

So my latest Netflix obsession is New Girl.

Have you seen the episode where the main character, Jess, joins a local politician for a game of golf with the other powerful women of Los Angeles. Her mission: to get new books for the middle school that she works in. It was a funny play on the ‘seal the deal over a game of golf’ trope that is associated with television CEO’s and senators.

At first I was pumped up at seeing all women in a traditional male dominated scenario, but then I became annoyed at how satirical the scene was. A game of golf, talking highlights from football Sunday, or (at least in the world of Wolf of Wall Street) going to a strip club, are all ways people have connected with their bosses and coworkers. They’re also incredibly gendered hobbies.

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Don’t get me wrong, I am all for these out-of-work recreational activities. Spending time with the people you work with, in a relaxed setting, is healthy and beneficial to professional environments. The problem occurs when the activities are based on traditionally masculine interests because women are informally, and probably unintentionally, excluded.

This is where Rachel Aslop comes in. Aslop was interested in different channels of informal networking used by professionals, so she studied the characteristics and benefits of four employee book clubs by interviewing their members. The results were basically what you expect to hear at a ‘key to success,’ motivational talk seminar about the importance of golfing with your boss. These book groups allowed coworkers to come together in a welcoming environment, get to know one another better, and make connections that strengthened their professional networks.

Thank goodness I don’t have to worry about blowing money on expensive golf clubs.

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But what if I hate reading and golfing and strip clubs? Then what do I do?

Well the beauty of this study isn’t that it’s suggesting that book clubs are the best way to network. Rather it shows the importance of exploring new and creative ways to develop professional relationships.

Don’t buy into the traditional image of sucking up to the boss while riding in the cart to the next hole. Think outside the box.

Network channels don’t have to be complex. The Economic Times recently published an article with the story of four women from different departments, frustrated with being stuck in their mid-level management positions. They began to meet for lunch once a month to talk about their work lives.

Over time, they began to progress in their jobs. How? When one woman was talking to people in her departments, she would mention one of other three women and the great work they had done. This got their names circulating throughout the company and allowed their accomplishments to be shared without them having to brag about themselves (something women have been known to struggle with, but that’s for another post).

So find something you can do with your coworkers to bond with each other, that is free from the stress of the 9 to 5 work day. Go bowling every Wednesday, set up a carpool, etc.

BTW, anyone interested in binge watching New Girl together?  

American Horror Story: Earning more money than your husband

By Erika Harrington

Lions, tigers, and high-earning women! Oh, my!

Framing a situation where a woman makes more than her husband as a marriage-dooming horror story is nothing new. From family to friends to tv shows, we’re constantly told that if we ever find ourselves making more money than our partner, we’ll be welcoming a host of problems into the relationship.

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Now you’re probably wondering, do you have to choose between a fulfilling marriage and a fat paycheck?

Not quite. Don’t let this myth crush your hopes of a decent future, and allow me to ease your stress. I’m happy to report that these fears, instilled in you by society and the media, are just as real as the boogeyman.  (Assuming, of course, that you don’t believe in the boogeyman. You do know he’s not real, right?)

According to Gregory Eirich and Joan Robinson, there is no evidence that the wife being the higher-earning spouse has any effect on financial satisfaction and marital stress [in the context of a heterosexual relationship]. Although some marriages may face finance-related strains, Eirich and Robinson report that those strains have little to do with who makes more money.

Amazing. Who would have ever imagined that which person makes the most money does not actually matter in the relationship? Oh but wait, because the best is yet to come.

giphyThe best part about this study was the finding that at the end of the day, what really matters isn’t who makes more money, but how much money a couple makes combined. It turns out that no one really cares who’s picking up the bill for a five-star dinner, or whose credit card the tropical vacation gets charged to. The only thing that matters is actually eating that steak and laying on that beach. The moral of the story: Marital strife is influenced by how much money a couple makes combined—not by who is making it.

Revolutionary.

With that said, this wouldn’t be a proper InformHer post without reminding you that a problem still persists. If people don’t really get divorced because the wife is bringing home all the bread, then why are we talking about it? Sadly, even though a woman out-earning her husband isn’t the life ruining issue that so many American dramas say it is, this myth can still impact the important professional decisions of many women. Further, it can have an impact on the egos of some men. The idea that each spouse has certain marital roles to fulfill and that a woman should be afraid of being more successful than her partner can seriously alter a woman’s intended career path.

So let’s use this research as a guide to closing the gender gap, and to shoot down any excuses keeping women from the top. It’s time to readdress our priorities, and start putting a possible beach house and a new Mercedes over an overly protected male ego.

If you enjoyed this article, feel free to comment. We love to hear what you have to say, and as always, thanks for reading The InformHer.