Talent Circles

Tuesday, June 18, 2013

Women in Transition: From Caregiver to Breadwinner

By Jessica Miller-Merrell

A record 25% of woman in the workforce are now the breadwinners in American households. These women are re-defining the workforce, work-life balance and leadership roles in business today. As a female in the HR industry, I support this shift not only because I’m a woman and a mother but also because I’ve experienced discrimination first hand while balancing my own views on parenting roles should or shouldn’t be. This shift won’t be an easy one because we have millions of years of evolution and genetics battling against this imperative workplace change.

This statistic has risen nearly six times since the 1960s — at a time when only 4% of women made more than their husbands according to a Pew Study. For decades parenting roles have been defined as the mother staying home with her child and the father going out and basically becoming the sole breadwinner in the family. As the glass ceiling starts cracking women are showing their ability to become the breadwinner for the family as well as reaching the top of major Fortune 500 companies, but at what cost?

According to several psychologists and divorce lawyers who see couples struggling with such changes, many relationships tend to follow the same pattern. First, the wife starts to lose respect for her husband and the chemistry in the relationship disappears. As women continue to push the envelope and become breadwinners for their families they’re seeing that it’s not as easy to balance both work and life because of the pushback they get from society and their counterparts.

As this trend continues and women are making progress in their role in the workplace the caregiver role will start shifting to men. While some feel emasculated in this role, there are a large percentage of men out there who are comfortable in this new mission.

One of the main elements of women becoming the breadwinner in the family is a higher level of education. The wife and husband don’t generally consider one smarter than the other, but men generally tend to prefer doing things with their hands or outdoors, while the women are exceling in the classroom and working at a desk. There is a clear gap in the financial equations between women and men where women are generally more educated which attributes to the sharp increase of women as breadwinners.

We are at a very crucial stage in workplace roles as women assume higher responsibilities including top positions at major companies and men staying home to become the caregiver. In order to completely demolish the glass ceiling it’s important to understand that not only are women becoming a force to be reckoning with in the workplace, but also acceptance is necessary to move forward.

Jessica Miller-Merrell, SPHR is a workplace and technology strategist specializing in social media. She’s an author who writes at Blogging4Jobs. You can follow her on Twitter @blogging4jobs

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  1. Great post! Support of women breadwinners by their spouses is so critical. As a woman breadwinner and a woman breadwinner coach, I can tell you that a woman breadwinner's success hinges upon being surrounded by an inner circle of people who support the value, talent, and knowledge she brings to the table. Especially in marriage, if a husband isn't supportive of her career and life pursuits, it makes the journey very difficult (not impossible) and causes serious marital strain. The good news is that men are trending in the direction of supporting, loving, and PREFERRING a woman who has her own dreams, career, goals, and excels in the workplace. We're still working on gender stereotypes on the part of society and other family members but there are many women breadwinner marriages that work because both partners know the gift they have in each other.

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