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Women & Money: Are Traditional Gender Roles Changing?

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When it comes to traditional gender roles, my household is a practically-perfect example of reversal. I’m the primary breadwinner. My husband was the primary caregiver to our son for the first 18 months, and still does a good amount of caregiving when I head off to some career-related conference (FinCon, anyone?). I usually take out the trash, my husband usually does the laundry.

However, our arrangement, which many in our rather traditional neighborhood find unusual, is becoming a little more common. Not too long ago, the Pew Research Center released the results of a study that indicate that the roles played by men and women are showing some convergence.

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Editor’s Note: This is part three of our week-long series Women & Money – focusing on the challenges women face today. Sheryl Sandberg’s book, Lean In, and her subsequent media promotion blitz have inspired us to this create this week’s series and we hope you’ll join us in discussing these important issues.

As you can see, since 1965, gender roles have changed somewhat. Women are spending less time on housework, and men are spending more time on housework. And, of course, there are more women spending time on paid work than in 1965. The presence of women in the workplace has increased significantly over the past decades, and that is leading to some changes in the way gender roles are handled, especially amongst modern couples.

What about Women and Money?

Traditionally, finances are seen as the purview of men. However, more women are getting involved in financial decisions. In my household, I make almost all of the financial decisions; my husband just isn’t very interested. (I have tried to get him interested in the refinance we’re going through.)

One of the reasons that more women are getting involved in money decisions is likely to do with the fact that they are, in fact, making some of the money with regularity. “Once women started earning money, it changed the view they had of themselves,” Susan Shapiro Barash, a gender expert and gender studies professor points out.

Toward the middle of 2012, Prudential released its 7th study titled “Financial Experience & Behaviors Among Women.” The survey indicated that 53% of women between the ages of 25 and 68 make more than their male counterparts. I know this is true in my household. The study indicates that one of the reasons that women are making more is due to the fact that their partners lost jobs following the financial crisis.

However, this doesn’t mean that women are the majority in the workplace. The study finds that 55% of men have full-time jobs as compared to 39% of women. The implication is that, even though women are becoming significant breadwinners, their job situations might not be full-time, or they might have some limited options.

With this shift in household finances, it seems natural that more women would start becoming involved in making some of the money decisions — even though studies still indicate that many women are uncomfortable with many aspects of finances (although, to be fair, there are plenty of men who are also uncomfortable with aspects of financial decision-making).

Men Become More Involved

All of the indications are that men are becoming more involved in household chores that are, traditionally, considered the province of women. With more women earning money, the division of labor isn’t so clear-cut. I’ve even seen it with my own parents. After all of us left, my mom went back to school, finished her degree, and started teaching. Now she works full time. My dad does laundry, vacuums, and makes dinner now that they are both working outside the home — chores I never saw him do while I was growing up.

As more women earn money, and become involved in financial decisions, there is a strong likelihood that traditional gender roles will become less common.

What do you think? Are traditional gender roles disappearing? Do you think that women earning more money is a good thing overall?

(Photo: Pew Research Center)

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12 Responses to “Women & Money: Are Traditional Gender Roles Changing?”

  1. I think it all comes down to the unique couple or family. I want my wife to be successful. When we have children, we can re-evaluate roles.

    I think communication is key – and often lacking.

    -Jacob

  2. Martha says:

    Great article. Gender roles have continually evolved as more women are becoming the primary, or at least an equal breadwinner to their spouses. However, as a working mom I still feel that their are more expectations on moms to contribute on a greater level to both child rearing and house chores. A major contributor to the change in gender roles comes from growing up in households where moms worked. For people in their 40s and younger many moms worked outside the home and from this their sons and daughters had great role models!

  3. freeby50 says:

    ARticle says : “53% of women between the ages of 25 and 68 make more than their male counterparts.”

    I don’t think thats correct.

    The Prudential study actually says :
    “53% of the more than 1,400 women surveyed were primary earners, as a result of partners losing jobs during the financial crisis, divorce, and deciding to marry later.”

    But that seems to include households with single women.

    The Prudential study also says:
    “Forty percent of female respondents are single, and a quarter of married women earn higher incomes than their spouses or partners.”

  4. Yes, I think it’s changing and I think it’s a good thing. The more people that feel they can do the things they want to do and enjoy doing for their family the better it is for the family.

  5. Damian says:

    My wife and I had a reveral of roles for nearly two years… I didn’t mind so much. ;)

  6. Quinton Hamp @Snazzy Checks says:

    I consider myself quite financially savvy, and make most of the “big picture” decisions (What mortgage to go with, which IRA, etc).

    However, the lady is simply a genius when it comes to finding deals when shopping. She runs our family of 3 on a monthly food and fuel budget of $600. It’s impressive.

    Now, we are preparing to switch career roles where she works full-time, and I take a part-time position. I’m not sure how I’ll match her saving skills when it comes time to go shopping

    So while we both have our separate financial strengths, we both know our limits and admire our partner’s individual financial skills.

  7. bloodbath says:

    I was raised by a single mother so I assume women did anything that needs to be done in the home. There is no tradition role in my home because we do not know what that means. We each do what we can, the one who does it best do it.

  8. bloodbath says:

    Oh, and I am 63 and have been this way all my life.
    My Mom may have been an usual woman but she never said so.

  9. Shirley says:

    While the kids were growing up and we were both working we shared the household chores, he took care of the yard and I took care of the ongoing finances. We shared equally in financial decisions that would bring about change, and in decisions concerning the kids. The key to harmony here was communication.

    When he retired six years before I did, he took over many of the household chores and transporting kids simply because it was convenient and he had more free time. Now we are both retired (it’s wonderful!) and we once again share equally. We each do whatever we enjoy (or don’t mind) doing and it all just gets done. ;-)

  10. Tom Clancy says:

    As long as she obeys in bed, I’m good.

  11. Milktoast says:

    Women earning more money is niether good or bad. Every household situation is different. What is good though is that they have the option to earn more if they so desire.

  12. Craig says:

    What I find interesting about this is the change in the total hours (Mom + Dad) of all three categories:

    From 1965 to 2011:
    * Paid Work: Increased from 50 to 58 hrs/week
    * Housework: Decreased from 40 to 28 hrs/week
    * Child Care: Increased from 12.5 to 21 hrs/week

    If you count these hours in terms of “Work” or “Not Work” hours:
    1965 Parents: 50 hrs/week at work, 48.5 not at work

    2011 Parents: 58 hrs/week at work, 50 not at work

    The biggest thing I get from this study is that the parental unit is spending more combined hours having to work to keep the family together.


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