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Women breadwinners 'proud,' but keeping it secret

Monday, April 8, 2013   (0 Comments)
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The number of women acting as household "breadwinner” is on the rise, but most are keeping their status a secret, according to a recent report from Simmons School of Management.

Nearly 60 percent of the 460 businesswomen surveyed last year by the school’s Center for Gender in Organizations consider themselves to be the primary financial contributors (PFC) of their households.  The breadwinners contribute an average of 88 percent of total household income, compared to non-PFC women, according to "Confronting Contradictions: Exploring the Tensions of Women as Breadwinners.”

This shift from traditional gender roles poses significant challenges to professional women, many of whom are expected to maintain familiar societal identities. Women are keeping their financial roles private, despite feeling "proud” of their career accomplishments, according to the study, and PFCs say they maintain their financial secrecy "out of a desire to not embarrass their non-PFC  partner.”

The professional standing in the home of many women is the result of a gradual evolution often "without an explicit discussion,” the study revealed. "Our research shows the degree to which women and men have fixed roles in American culture, and that if you don't follow these roles, you are potentially the subject of misunderstanding and even ridicule,” said study co-author Mary Shapiro. "In many ways, it signals how society still expects women to maintain the traditional and subordinate role to men in their earnings and work life.”

Despite women's growing presence as breadwinners, their responsibilities at home are not changing. Of the PFCs surveyed, 80 percent said they contributed to all homecare at least equal to or more than their partner. Seventy-five percent said they contributed to all childcare at least equal to or more than their partner.

With many women and men challenging traditional gender roles as breadwinner and homemaker, employers are faced with new challenges in attracting and retaining quality employees, the study noted. Work expectations need to be adjusted as the breadwinner role becomes as normative for women as it is for men.

"As the battle for top talent continues to amplify," the study concluded, "organizations need to provide family-friendly policies that will support both male and female breadwinners.”

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