The days of a woman in an apron cooking and cleaning while watching after the children at home all day while her husband heads out the door to the office are long gone.
A study from the Pew Research Center found that 40 percent of mothers are now the family breadwinners and that’s not all. In addition to increasingly working outside the home, the study found that 15 percent of married mothers actually out-earn their husbands (which is particularly notable considering the gender wage gap).
Why are women excelling in the workplace?
There are many factors, but of course education plays a huge role and the study also found that 61% of husbands and wives in dual-earner households have similar education levels. Mothers are better educated than their spouses in 23% of cases.
Unfortunately, while the study had some great gender stereotype shattering moments, there were also some pitfalls.
- 30% of those surveyed think it’s better if men earn more
- Half of those surveyed thought that a mother working outside the home is bad for marriages
- Half of those surveyed felt it was better if mothers stayed home with young children
It is these traditional notions that will continue to make it hard for women to “lean in” as Sheryl Sandberg notes in her much discussed book, even if they are the breadwinner of their household.
The study isn’t the only place that gender stereotypes have been reinforced. In fact, in much of the coverage of the study these sexist ideas have rung true.
Not so surprisingly Fox News contributor Erick Erickson had the following to day about the study:
When you look at biology, when you look at the natural world, the roles of a male and a female in society and in other animals, the male typically is the dominant role.
This naturally leaves women to take on a submissive role which would make it impossible for them to actually be providing for their families in such high numbers, right? (Wrong! In case you didn’t get my sarcasm.)
As essay in this weekend’s New York Times weighed in on the study as well, noting that social norms which call for men to bring home the bacon are old fashioned and troubling. Yes, agreed! So, what can we do about it? Well, companies should make it easier for women to work part-time or from home of course. Wait…
I am all for flexible work schedules to make it easier for families to raise their children while making a living, but why is it that women need to squash their career ambitions to make their husbands happier (and feel less insecure) at home? That’s not a solution for dissolving these sexist gender norms. It only enforces them even more.
Women shouldn’t be made to feel guilty for choosing to have a career, especially if it is necessary for their family’s sustainability. On the flip side, women who have the option to stay at home shouldn’t be made to feel that this choice is not valid. Just because it doesn’t bring in a paycheck, it doesn’t mean it isn’t work. Same goes for stay-at-home dads.
We as a society need to recognize that raising children and managing a home is valuable work – just as valuable as being the family breadwinner – and that it can be done well by a woman or man. Until we recognize that we will never truly be equal.
What do you think?