With 40 percent of women earning more than their husbands, and only 16 percent of US households consisting of a breadwinner father and homemaker mother, it is clear that America’s long-held gender roles are in a state of flux.
Mr. Mom 2.0
Perhaps the most obvious sign of the change taking place in modern American families across the country is the rise of Mr. Mom. Whether out of choice or necessity, the number of stay-at-home dads is slowly increasing.
According to U.S. Census statistics, out of the 70.1 million fathers in the country, 176,000 describe themselves at as stay-at-home dads. This group makes up a minuscule statistical minority, but there’s more to this story. The number of fathers who have part-time jobs but still serve as the primary caretaker has risen to around 626,000, according to a recent New York Times article examining the phenomenon.
Combined, these two groups make up a full 1% of the dads in this country.
A CEO’s Chief Domestic Officer
From a merely anecdotal perspective, I have noticed an increase in the number of senior executive women in Asset Management who have stay-at-home husbands. Several women I’ve interviewed for this blog, including Helena Morrissey and Linda Gibson, tell me they wouldn’t have the happy family lives and dynamic careers they do without their husbands scaling back their own successful careers in order to serve as primary caregivers.
This trend isn’t just found in financial services. It’s present throughout the upper echelon of corporate culture.
Bloomberg News writes:
“Seven of the 18 women who are currently CEOs of Fortune 500 companies—including Xerox’s Ursula Burns, PepsiCo’s Indra Nooyi, and 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’s new CEO, Ginni Rometty, have spouses who dialed back their careers to become their powerful wives’ chief domestic officers.”
A Woman’s Most Important Career Choice?
Obtaining a high-profile, C-Level position requires endless sacrifice, long hours, and extensive travel. If a family is part of the plan, choosing a supportive partner may be critical for today’s rising star businesswoman. If your partner’s career can take backseat for the common good, that could make your climb easier.
Choosing the right partner, Sheryl Sandberg says, is the most important career choice a woman will make. In her commencement address to Barnard College, she said:
“If you pick someone who’s willing to share the burdens and the joys of your personal life, you’re going to go further. A world where men ran half our homes and women ran half our institutions would be just a much better world.”
Moreover, women with their sights set on the top jobs might be wise to select a husband who feels comfortable taking on more domestic responsibilities, even if they’re not planning to have a large family.
When Rosabeth Moss Kanter, author of the seminal book “Men and Women of the Corporation,” was asked what men could do to help advance women’s leadership, the Harvard Business School professor answered, “The laundry.”
As more men commit to being hands-on dads, and more women pursue leadership positions within their industries, couples will become increasingly comfortable with a greater degree of gender role fluidity. This evolution of a woman’s role within her family and her work will be a powerful force in the career opportunities for all women.
Do women executives with stay-at-home husbands have a better chance at career advancement than those with working husbands? How do you negotiate your work and family roles with your significant other?