Gender Issues: The Second Glass Ceiling

by Elaine Schwartz    •    Jan 21, 2013    •    514 Views

By Lilli DeBode, guest blogger, senior at Kent Place School

A recent study shows that the glass ceiling not only pertains to employment, but also to marriage.  The results demonstrate that as women earn more than their husbands, the frequency of those marriages decreases. In other words, there are tons of couples in which the man makes a greater or equal amount of money than the woman, but there are many fewer couples as income reverses. (It should also be pointed out that all of these couples were in the age range of 22-34 years old, so the presence of children could not really skew the numbers). The study also makes the equally upsetting point that as women start to out-earn their husbands, the rate of divorce increases. Interestingly enough, it did not make a difference how much the disparity between the two paychecks was. Just in general, if women earned more, the occurrence of divorce increased.

The results also show that a woman who has the potential to out-earn her husband often either decides to work less or quit her job altogether. Why is this? It could be because she realizes how detrimental (and possibly terminal) it could be for her relationship. Another explanation proposed by the study was that in marriages in which the woman makes the smaller paycheck, the woman is the one who does the majority of the household chores. Therefore, it only makes sense that if the woman is the one who earns more money, then the man should be the one to take care of the chores. Oddly, this is not the case. Just because of social norms, women, even if they work longer hours and earn more money, are still expected to complete the household tasks.

So what does this mean for the economy? A significant proportion of women are not working at full potential, thus under-utilizing our nation’s production possibilities. Especially at a time in which our economy desperately needs a productivity surge, gender norms and stereotypes should not be hindering our economy to this extent.

Sources and Resources: To read more about this issue, New York Magazine has a very interesting article about the troubles which can stem from having a relationship in which the woman is the “alpha.” The Economist also has an article which discusses the issues above in more depth.

Note: The title was slightly edited after this entry was posted.

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