A generation of female breadwinners look back on the sacrifices—some little, some profound—required to have the careers they wanted. Hundreds of thousands of women who have advanced into management roles in the past two decades—and, in particular, the hundreds who’ve become senior corporate officers—figured out early what every man with a corner office has long known: To make it to the top, you need a wife. If that wife happens to be a husband, and increasingly it is, so be it.
When Carly Fiorina became (HPQ)Hewlett-Packard’s first female chief executive officer, the existence of her househusband, Frank Fiorina, who had retired early from AT&T to support her career, was a mini-sensation; now this arrangement isn’t at all unusual. Seven of the 18 women who are currently CEOs of Fortune 500 companies—including (XRX)Xerox’s Ursula Burns, (PEP)PepsiCo’s Indra Nooyi, and (WLP)WellPoint’s Angela Braly—have, or at some point have had, a stay-at-home husband. So do scores of female CEOs of smaller companies and women in other senior executive jobs. Others, like (IBM)IBM’s new CEO, Ginni Rometty, have spouses who dialed back their careers to become their powerful wives’ chief domestic officers.
This role reversal is occurring more and more as women edge past men at work. Women now fill a majority of jobs in the U.S., including 51.4 percent of managerial and professional positions, according to U.S. Census Bureau data. Some 23 percent of wives now out-earn their husbands, according to a 2010 study by the Pew Research Center. And this earnings trend is more dramatic among younger people. Women 30 and under make more money, on average, than their male counterparts in all but three of the largest cities in the U.S.
During the recent recession, three men lost their jobs for every woman. Many unemployed fathers, casualties of layoffs in manufacturing and finance, have ended up caring for their children full-time while their wives are the primary wage earners. The number of men in the U.S. who regularly care for children under age five increased to 32 percent in 2010 from 19 percent in 1988, according to Census figures. Among those fathers with preschool-age children, one in five served as the main caregiver.
When jobs are scarce or one partner is aiming high, a two-career partnership is next to impossible. “Top power jobs are so time-consuming and difficult, you can’t have two spouses doing them and maintain a marriage and family,” says Stephanie Coontz, a family studies professor at Evergeen State College in Olympia, WA. This explains why, even as women make up more of the workforce, they’re still a small minority (14 percent, according to New York-based Catalyst) in senior executive jobs. When they reach the always-on, all-consuming executive level, “it’s still women who more often put family ahead of their careers,” says Ken Matos, a senior director at Families and Work Institute in New York. It may explain, too, why bookstore shelves and e-book catalogs are jammed with self-help books for ambitious women.
As more women enter the workforce, and many become the primary breadwinners, there is a structural shift taking place in organizations and households. Especially for these talented women, we have recently released a new self-coaching guide that passes on career success secrets as written by co-author Barbara McEwen and myself over the last three years.
The concept of "When Doing It All Won't Do" came about because of the very real, very important needs that our female clients repeatably expressed in their struggles with the countless roles and duties that are routinely placed on them. That is why Barb and I, as leading executive coaches of working women in North America, have a unique understanding of female perceptions that affect their work and home life challenges along with what approaches have worked well for our women clients.
In the February 14, 2011 edition of The New Yorker magazine, Tina Fey wrote: "What is the rudest question you can ask a woman? How old are you? What do you weigh? No, the worst question is: How do you juggle it all? The topic of working moms is a tap-dance recital in a minefield. 'How do you juggle it all?' people constantly ask me, with a accusatory look in their eyes. 'You're screwing it all up, aren't you?' their eyes say. My standard answer is that I have the same struggles as any working parent but with the good fortune to be working in my dream job."
Women are dancing to a frenzied beat, believing just because they can, they should. They have been taught, if they are capable of doing something, it shouldn't be necessary to look for help. This has led women to become frustrated by experiencing long days and frantic schedules. Many working women are exhausted.
Source: Bloomberg BusinessWeek, January 9, 2012
For a self-coaching guide to career women success:
Barbara A. McEwen: When Doing It All Won't Do: A Self-Coaching Guide for Career Women--Workbook Edition (Paperback Edition for $14.99)
When Doing It All Won't Do: A self-coaching guide for career women" by Barbara McEwen & John G. Agno. "
Purchase and download for the Nook eReader and iPad tablets at Barnes & Noble for $9.99
Purchase and download at Amazon for the Kindle Edition - for $9.99
Purchase and download all eReader formats at Smashwords (Various Formats, except the pdf Workbook Edition, are available) for $9.99
John G Agno: Women, Know Thyself: The most important knowledge is self-knowledge. ($2.99 for ebook or $9.99 for paperback)
John G. Agno: Women and Time ($2.99 for ebook or $9.99 for paperback)