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Thu December 6, 2012
Innovation Hub 12/08/12: "The Richer Sex"
- Liza Mundy: author of "The Richer Sex"
Wondering what the future will look like? Try female. That's the concept that Author Liza Mundy explores in her book ' The Richer Sex: How the New Majority of Female Breadwinners is Transforming Sex, Love, and Family.'
Across the country, women are breaking through glass ceilings and transforming notions of family — and for Mundy, this shift begins with changes in higher education.
It's hard to believe that, only a few decades ago, women were denied admission to many of the nations schools. Today, women are equal players in academia. In fact, they’re often more than equal players — women dominate many colleges and universities numerically, and now receive more Bachelor's degrees every and hold more Master's degrees than men.
Why the shift? Mundy notes a change in gender-based reasons for pursuing education. “In the middle of the last century, men had incentives to go to college that women didn’t have,” Mundy explains, citing the GI Bill and draft dodging as two examples. But as these factors faded away for men, women experienced increased incentives to go to college, such as increased admissions and birth control.
“When the pill came on the landscape,” Mundy argues, “and women understood that they could have a career that was less likely to be interrupted by an unplanned pregnancy, they started envisioning their future differently.”
Women’s numerical dominance in education isn’t likely to subside. As Mundy notes, demographers predict that by 2050, there will be be 140 college educated women in the US for every 100 college educated men. Furthermore, while under 10% of working wives out-earned their husbands in the 70s, that number is now around 40%. Women also hold 51% of managerial jobs.
Gender roles aren’t only shifting in the workplace or the lecture hall — they’re also changing in relationships and marriages. There are many more stay-at-home dads than there once were, though it's still a small percentage. Marriages have declined to such an extent that, the Census Bureau, the National Center for Health Statistics, and other entities have begun to agonize about how to count other living arrangements. Only 50% of American adults are married, and 2 out of every 5 children are born to unmarried women. For white women, births outside marriage have more than doubled since 1990.
Mundy believes that most women were raised hoping for a world of complete equality — they strove to work the same hours, make the same wages, and share the same amount of housework with their eventual partner. These women may be surprised with just how much traditional gender roles have shifted. “When women find themselves pulling ahead [of their partner],” Mundy explains, “it can come as a surprise and it can be disconcerting sometimes.”
But despite this discomfort, and despite many analysts who express concerns over changes within the family, Mundy believes that economic empowerment is liberating for women. She also believes, however, that cultural change should run parallel to desire.
“It’s good for women that marriage isn’t the only path to success anymore...If you didn’t marry back then you were a failure,” Mundy explains. “But on the other hand, if there are women and men who would ideally like to be married and for whatever reason it just doesn’t seem viable, then we need to find a way to fix that.”