Oct 19, 2009

You just let me handle him.

Occasionally I come across something that makes me feel as if I live in a bubble. Case in point, an article on MSNBC.com titled “Increasingly wives earn more than husbands”. Seriously?  Is this really a problem?  I don’t even have to read the article to know that it will raise my blood pressure by a few points.

According to the article, 65.3% of women and 61.2% of men agreed strongly that they are comfortable with women earning more than men in a household. This means there are 35% of women and 39% of the men are not comfortable with the idea. Why not?

A clue lies in this quote from the article. This is from a gentleman who lost his job and now has to rely on his wife’s income. “We’re Christians, so for me to not be the breadwinner…… it’s not the easiest thing.” I scratched my head for a minute wondering what on earth his religion had to do with it.

Does that mean that non-Christian men like Buddhist, Jewish and Muslim and your plain old atheists are all fine with their wives making more money than them? I'm thinking it has more to do with how "fundamental" you are. And by fundamental I mean old fashioned, antiquated and not in step with the realities of today. A lot of religions keep people locked in that mind set.

To make matters worse these families are struggling because the wife's wages are usually lower than the husband's.  In 2007 only 33.5% of women were making more than their husbands despite the fact that the number of women in the workplace has been steadily growing to the point that we now have about half of the jobs.

Why? Well it's that nasty little pay difference that exists between men and women. Women only make 77 cents for every dollar that a man earns. Additionally, only 77% of women primary breadwinners have health insurance benefits while 91% of the men breadwinners do. Guess the powers that be didn't forsee that the gender gap would come back to bite us in the ass. Who knew that we would have to actually rely on women to provide?

Census Bureau Earnings Exact Numbers 2002
Current Population Survey 1996-2002
Reporters/Editors Men-$41,003 Women-$33,363
Accountants/Auditors Men-$49,042 Women-$33,275
Insurance Sales Men-$49,555 Women-$31,550
Financial Managers Men-$59,871 Women-$39,795
Lawyers/Judges Men-$83,530 Women-$62,635
Physicians Men-$93,740 Women-$69,303
Teachers Men-$35,822 Women-$30,830

I remember back in 1989 when I was first promoted to a management position, my boss sat me down to give me the good news. New title, new office, nice raise. As an afterthought my boss asked. “Will you be making more than your husband?” I didn’t answer right away because, frankly, I thought it was a very rude question. He must have thought my hesitation meant that I was in fact worried about my husband’s reaction. He then asked, “Will he be upset?” I finally answered him, “No, you go ahead and pay me as much money as you want to. He’ll be fine with it.”

I mean, why on earth wouldn’t he be? I would really worry about him if his sense of self worth was damaged by me making more money than him. More money meant a better future for our family, no matter who brought it home. Why would he not want that?  I was right of course, he was ecstatic and has been for every raise and promotion that has come since.

I suppose I should be thankful. The big debate used to be whether women should work at all. Now it's just about fragile men maintaining their egos while their wives work to keep the family afloat.


  1. OMG! I can't believe your boss asked you that! My husband would LOVE if I made more money than he did, unfortunately for him I just quit my non-profit job since it wasn't enough money to make the day care worth it and I didn't make enough to let him be a stay at home dad, which I think he would love!

    good thing we have awesome husbands huh?

  2. I can NOT believe your boss asked you that! How crazy!!

    Right now my hubby is working on a novel, so I am currently making more money than him...but at one point he made more money than me--we've gone back and forth so many times, it doesn't matter. Hopefully we'll just be so fabulously rich someday that we don't ever have to think about money. *smiles*

  3. I can believe it.....I was an RN.for most of my career years. I had a male supervisor that was not a nurse. It wasn't until the late 80's that I had a Director of Nurses that was a real nurse. She was the one that went to bat for her staff, got better hours, wages, patient ratios and told us to be professionals and not hand maidens....it is a slow process...probably won't change in my lifetime, but I also heard that by 2010 women will dominate the workforce...and be underpaid.

  4. Kate - we do... and isn't it really all about making choices available for people so they can choose what works best for their family.

    MHP - Here's to you and your future as a woman of leisure.

    Rosemary - Coming up in the 80's you know exactly what I'm talking about. Those dinosaurs finally left the workplace but their replacements just learned to hide it better.

  5. I think women should be able to rise to their abilities,be paid in an equitable manner,negotiate their work schedules in an environment that recognizes the changing face of the American workplace,..and make dinner!

  6. SLing - guess that's what they meant by frying up the bacon.... let me get right on that.

  7. A man would be pretty insecure if he couldn't appreciate the healthy paycheck his wife brings home. we have come a long way since i was young, but women still have far to go to reach pay equity.

  8. Mom - We keep fighting the good fight and eventually women's work will be valued the same as men's work.

  9. Why does anyone think it would be a problem - $$$$ are $$$ no matter who earns it and shared equally in the marriage as it should be.