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Women & Money: Are Traditional Gender Roles Changing?

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 [3] 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 [4] that indicate that the roles played by men and women are showing some convergence.

Editor’s Note: This is part three of our week-long series Women & Money [5] – focusing on the challenges women face today. Sheryl Sandberg’s book, Lean In [6], 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 [7].

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 [8]; my husband just isn’t very interested. (I have tried to get him interested in the refinance [9] 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 [10] 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 [11] 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 [4])