Progress or not? What happens when ‘she’ makes more than ‘he’ does?

As women earn more, a shift is coming in equality and in gender roles, and the change is not without its challenges.

What happens when she earns more than he does can sometimes be divorce. Yep. Marriages and other partnerships that feature a woman who earns more money than her man are more likely to end in separation than those where the traditional pay imbalance still exists.

A study by The University of Chicago Booth School of Business that looked at 4,000 married couples, the data showed that once a woman started to earn more than her husband, divorce rates increased.

Surprisingly, though, this data showed that whether the wife earns a little bit more or a lot more doesn’t actually make much of a difference. So the researchers concluded from that that what really matters is the mere fact of a woman earning more.

Not only that but the research also indicated that when women are the breadwinners they are also expected to clean up the bread crumbs afterward as well. Yep sadly these top earning ladies are likely to do more of the household chores the more money they make. Whether it’s because they trying to prove that they can do and have it all aka be a wonder woman, that they can still take care of their “women’s work” even while earning top dollar. Even more surprising – the more they earn the more housework they do!

There are a few brave women bucking the trend – Australian entrepreneur Denise Duffield Thomas says “CEO doesn’t stand for Chief Everything Officer” in discussing her stepping into her role as the CEO of her business and allowing herself to delegate or delete everything else, including household chores.

But examples like Denise it seems are few and far between with the majority spinning multiple plates and wearing many hats each day. Sadly it looks like progress is happening faster than traditional gender norms seem to be changing.

From stress on the relationship because of the emasculation of the “provider” role to the financial power struggles, difficult conversations, and decisions that can come as women make more money, many can find it difficult to find a balance that works for all involved without any mummy or wifey guilt.

The good news is that everything is always ‘figureoutable’.

If you find yourself in the situation of beginning to earn more than your significant other here’s a few ideas to make it work:

  • Discuss and decide if you prefer joint accounts or separate finances, or a middle ground.
  • Discuss any perceptions of power – ie: does the main bread winner have more say in financial decisions or not.
  • Engage in open communication about house work and what you both want and need, who will be responsible for each component and what will be outsourced.
  • Consider and discuss perceptions and what you think about what others perceive about your situation. Does it matter to either of you what others think? Do you discuss it publicly or not? Does it trigger any emotions for either of you?

Finally, if you need more advice and information on this modern trend then check out Farnoosh Torabi’s new book, When She Earns More.

Despite decades of action by women’s organisations, governments, and feminist groups, progress on closing the gap in recent years has been glacial. And now it seems for those getting ahead and earning more it is creating a divide in the home as well.

In the words of Buckminster Fuller “You never change things by fighting the existing reality. To change something, build a new model that makes the old model obsolete.”

This certainly isn’t proving an easy nut to crack, but for women and our wider economy, the benefits outweigh the downfalls so it’s time we gave it a shot.


About Your Guest Blogger: An animal loving, vegetarian, self-made millionaire and brand U expert Heidi Alexandra will motivate and educate you to create a powerful personal brand that supercharges your impact, escalates your influence and skyrockets your success. She believes today more than ever you need to build your Brand U brand.