For many years, financially providing for a family was solely the man’s responsibility. Then progress happened. Women fought for their right to enter the workplace and be treated as economic equals throughout the 20th Century. Now, the number of women who are regarded as their family’s ‘breadwinner’ is higher than ever. I would call that a win.
However, breadwinner status comes with drawbacks. All that responsibility can be tough on anyone, male or female. I was reminded of this when I came across a recent study from the United States. Researchers sought to examine how women handle the wage earner role.
More than 1,000 working women were surveyed by financial network the Family Wealth Advisors Council. Study co-author Heather Ettinger said that being the breadwinner was “a role of stress, stress, stress” for women as they often have to care for children, grandchildren and parents in addition to their job.
The study also found that many women were typically taking on between 75 and 90 per cent of all of the family’s financial planning.
Around 40 per cent of respondents claimed to feel pressure from family or friends to downplay the fact that they were the main earner in the household. Additionally, 28 per cent said that their own parents disapproved of their wage earner status.
This is all understandable and easy to sympathise with, but then we come to divorce. Despite a 2014 claiming that families with a female breadwinner are less likely to experience divorce, it does still happen. Women with high paying jobs can develop a level of contempt for their non-working partner and soon the relationship is coming apart at the seams.
Talking to Reuters, Ms Ettinger said that a lot of women “end up much worse financially than they were” and “end up having to pay alimony and child support” in the event their marriage breaking down.
My question would be: what did they expect? I am constantly surprised by the reaction of some women whose partners have high demands in their divorce. Why would they not?
Nobody would be surprised if a stay-at-home wife demanded half of her wealthy husband’s estate, so why should that be different when the shoe is on the other foot? Despite what some may say, the law does not automatically favour women and nor should it.
As a working woman, I can completely understand the stress that comes with such a role but when it comes to family law, financial need trumps gender.