If SHE earns more than HIM
It’s bad enough that women in employment earn less than men. But it gets really complicated in personal life: That is, if SHE earns more than HIM. But why is the income gap actually so problematic the other way round? How do we manage to finally say farewell to outdated stereotypes? And is pay equity the solution for happy relationships between equals?
By HENRIKE VON PLATEN
If a woman is more successful in her career than her partner, that has consequences, particularly economic ones. As, generally speaking, earnings rise in the course of her career, she will, sooner or later, have a higher income at her disposal. The reverse of this is not only not a problem, but rather the normal state of affairs. Many women earn less than their partner. It’s not uncommon that they end up financially dependent or contributing to old age poverty – especially if they have a high earning partner at their side.
Until divorce or retirement, this usually this goes well surprisingly often and surprisingly for a long time- it seems to only become problematic if the situations reverse. When it’s the man whose running the household and clearly earns less than her or contributes nothing to the household income from his own employment, then he has not only a wife who is outstandingly successful and earns above average, but also a tangible image problem.
The sole breadwinner: A dying breed
Why is it so hard to bear, when a woman earns more than a man? The crux of the matter is not just the money, but that the lower earning partner has less money in their account, and in the eyes of their partner is also less of a man. This is all the more surprising as the bread winning man is a dying breed anyway - in many cases, one income is nowhere near enough to feed a family any more.
Blame for the predicament is a thing of the past, however persistent stereotypes influence our mating habits: Clichés in our heads are extremely powerful. There’s a reason we know of the “family man” and the “working mom”, but not the “working dad” or the “family woman”. The sole breadwinner and his trophy wife are outdated role models, whereas professionally successful women still irritate us: Men with success, money and power are deemed to be competent and we are sympathetic to them. We take women with success, money and power to be vain, power hungry or arrogant and we don’t like them.
Power and money in personal life
The fact that unsuccessful men are deemed unmanly and successful women are seen as unattractive and unpleasant is at least as equally bad and unfair as the fact that women in Germany still earn 21% less for the same job than men. It’s all connected. All of these injustices have exactly the same key causes - which are often perceived as individual failure and also therefore stick with surprising persistence, because we only grudgingly want to admit how the distribution of power and money really extends into our private lives.
So that couples can beyond the usual individually negotiate who would like to assume which proportion of employment and family work, economic independence is required first of all. And secondly the willingness to challenge themselves and the clichés in their own heads.
Finally, it shouldn’t matter whichever of them earns more or less. However both partners need to have the same right and the same opportunity for economic independence - male potency being conditional on bank balance needs to become obsolete but it’s true that nothing in life gives you as much freedom as economic independence. And it should not depend on your gender.
The text is a short extract from the book chapter: “Women with money, men with an image problem - why love between equals requires economic independence”. The whole chapter, as well as many other texts on the subject can be read in: “Side by Side – Männer an der Seite erfolgreicher Frauen” (Side by side - men on the side of successful women), which has just been published in German by Haufe-Verlag publishers.
FPI - What we do
Why does the gender pay gap prove so intractable? What is standing in the way of fair pay for all? What do companies need to do in order to put sustainable pay strategies into practice?
Knowing about the pay gap and being willing to rid the world of the unjust state of affairs are evidently not enough to actually ensure fair pay. It is right here ...