Welcome to Glorious & Cash – Les Glorieuses launched this newsletter to talk about why money is power and matters for gender equality. It’s written by Arièle Bonte and the translation is made by Stephanie Williamson.
🇫🇷Pour la version française, cliquez ici.
Millennial women are twice as likely as their mothers to make more money than their partners, by Arièle Bonte
Women earn on average 42% less than their partners ( ! ) but a new phenomenon is taking place among millennial women : according to a study by Business Insider and the data intelligence company Morning Consult, they are twice as likely to earn more than their partners than their mothers were.
Isn’t that good news?
In 2020, the rules of the game for (heterosexual) couples are beginning to change, but this emerging trend is creating new dynamics for couples who are not necessarily prepared for such a change in power balance.
To understand where this phenomenon comes from and what it means for our society, I contacted Sibylle Gollac, sociologist, researcher at the CNRS (National Centre for Scientific Research) and co-author with Céline Bessière of the rich and fascinating book Le genre du capital, published by Éditions La Découverte.
“If the pay gap between partners is decreasing and notably for women of this generation, it’s because they are more highly educated than men. This trend in couples began as soon as the year 2000 and has grown in recent years,” says the sociologist to explain the “catching-up” done by millennial women compared to their “baby boomer” mothers.
But there are other explanations.
Another important point to take into account: “These women are young, will probably have children later than their mothers and will probably have fewer of them,” adds Sibylle Gollac. “However, income disparities within couples grow with the arrival of the first child. This weighs on the professional careers and salaries of these young mothers, while their domestic workload inside the home – which is unpaid– increases.”
This is in fact exactly what is shown by the study mentioned above. Of course, today’s young female workers are more likely (35%) to earn more than their partners in comparison to the previous generation (18%). But this performance isn’t expected to last. The cause ? Career-limiting pregnancies– as explained by Sibylle Gollac– but also recruitment discrimination, pay inequalities between men and women doing the same work with the same skills and the famous glass ceiling faced by many women.
“When women earn more than men, there are cases among 20- year olds where the female partner will ensure the financial survival of the couple thanks to a job that pays the bills, as well as taking care
of household tasks and children when there are some, while the male partner finishes his studies in order to access a career that will end up bringing in more money,” highlights the co-author of Le genre du capital. Earning more money is good, but practicing a chosen profession and having the possibility of climbing the career ladder is better.
And that’s not all! In their book, Sibylle Gollac and Céline Bessière discuss at great length another inequality, barely documented in literature: asset inequality.
“If men have more assets than their partners when they begin a relationship, it’s often because they’re older and are more likely to have inherited from family members. Today, the age gap between partners tends to be smaller, especially because people often meet during their studies. This means that no one partner is necessarily more advanced in his or her professional career. However, asset inequalities between men and women are increasing (they were at 9% in 1998 and 16% twenty years later), to the detriment of women,” says the researcher.
Why have asset inequalities between men and women grown so much?
“The individualization of assets,” explains Sibylle Gollac. “Fewer couples are getting married, they are less likely to opt for the community of property regime and even though women have a higher income than before, all these inequalities are growing during marital life and will manifest themselves markedly when the couple separates.”
So yes, you might think that being in a relationship is good for your wallet. Rent split in half, small financial arrangements between lovers, tax deductions for married couples and those in civil partnerships… But at the end of the day, it’s mostly women who find themselves at a disadvantage– even more so if they earn more than their partners. Because this situation turns gender dynamics upside down. A
study by the University of Bath revealed that men married to a woman earning up to 40% of the household income feels good about his life. But when the wife earns more, stress levels increase.
« These findings suggest that social norms about male breadwinning—and traditional conventions about men earning more than their wives—can be dangerous for men’s health. They also show how strong and persistent are gender identity norms, » said Dr. Joanna Syrda, an economist at the University of Bath’s School of Management to Phys.org.
How can we avoid getting caught out? “In a situation where the woman earns less, she shouldn’t fall into the trap of contributing as much as her partner when she doesn’t have the same income,” advises Sibylle Gollac. “Considering the possibility of separation is complicated because it makes us ask long-term questions,” she adds. So to avoid any misunderstandings, the sociologist reminds us of the importance of communication. “It’s important to be able to talk about each person’s personal projects, how they will share household tasks, how each will be rewarded…This is a complicated question that divides feminists…Should domestic work be paid? Should the state be responsible for this renumeration? Or the partner?” This is a debate for another day.
Le genre du capital, Comment la famille reproduit les inégalités, Sibylle Gollac and Céline Bessière (éditions La Découverte, collection L’envers des faits), available in e-book formal via this link (14,99 €).
Are you the head of a company and about to start working from the office again? Don’t lose the good habits you developed during lockdown when it comes to workplace well-being: fewer meetings and emails, more dialogue and communication and time dedicated to your personal life. Here’s another thought: what if this is the time to re-think open office workspaces? The model has its limitations, especially in the time of a pandemic.
La Tribune gives 5 reasons for continuing to invest during the pandemic, especially with this final argument: investing now is taking action against the crisis. A word to the wise…
Libre de prendre le pouvoir sur ma carrière, Guide de coaching pour les femmes
qui veulent se réaliser au travail (Free to take ownership over my career, a coaching guide for women who want to achieve more at work) is a book written by Lucile Quillet, a journalist specialising in areas linked to the professional lives of women. In this book, the author demystifies issues surrounding work and provides women with practical and accessible tools to fight imposter syndrome, enhance their Cvs, deal with manterrupting etc. A must-read.
Notebook « The feminist revolution starts here »
You can still find our beautiful notebooks, in French blue, and in English, in blue or pink.
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Arièle Bonte is a French journalist specialized in equality, gender and sexuality. For three years she was leading RTL Girls, for RTL.fr. Today she’s an independent journalist but she still has the same goal: spread the news through the gender prism. She also wrote a novel « Le Chaos des décibels » (Librinova), and she’s the author of the newsletter « Spell it out » about modern witchcraft. Her dream is to meet Lana Del Rey, to travel around the world and to have a green thumb.
A MESSAGE FROM OUR PARTNER
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L’Oréal firmly believes in Diversity and Inclusion, and is convinced that Women’s leadership must be promoted in order to achieve a more
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