Women are increasingly assuming positions of power in politics, the workplace, and at home. What does that mean for our ability to get a date? It turns out, science is all over the place on this one.
Some studies find that gender stereotypes keep women from embracing powerful careers in order to preserve marriages. Others say high-earning, powerful women are the new high-earning men – extremely attractive to the opposite sex and able to hold out for hot, older partners. Scientists call it “The George Clooney Effect”.
It helps to get a sense of where women are in the workforce before looking at the dating scene. According to a new Gallup poll, Americans are increasingly open to having a female boss. Almost 50 percent of workers don’t care about the gender of their boss – a change from the days when two thirds preferred a male boss. Of those who do have a preference, 35 percent want a male boss and 23 percent would rather have a woman. The people who prefer a male boss tend to be women and Republicans. Yep, that’s right. Women.
More women than men now value high paying, prestigious careers. There are increasing numbers of women in the workplace. Young, single, childless women earn more than their male peers. And more and more women are becoming the primary breadwinners for their families. A study published in the Harvard Business Review found that female bosses tended to be ranked by employees higher on all leadership dimensions except for “envisioning” – recognizing opportunities and developing strategic direction.
As women advance, the corporate world is learning to understand female/male brain differences – women are better at multitasking, building consensus and reading facial cues in negotiations – and use those assets to their advantage. This works for everyone – male workers are happier where women can advance. However, there are still hurdles.
The preference for male bosses and leaders likely has something to do with societal constraints on powerful women and cultural models of leaders tend to be masculine. Men are admired who are dominant, competitive and confident. Whereas for a woman, it’s more important to be nice. Distancing oneself from femininity has a backlash effect – people don’t want women to adopt masculine traits in the workplace.
So what does this all mean? Well, men are still adjusting to the idea of high-earning women. Men still prefer to earn more money than their partner. This could be because men tend to believe that money equals power and that power is the path to respect. When a woman brings home more money, and from the man’s perspective, more power, he could see that as a threat to his very masculinity. Women appear to be sacrificing their career in order to keep their man secure and the relationship alive. A study by three economists found the following:
- Couples in which a woman earns more than her husband are less likely to report that they’re happy in their marriage—and their unions are more likely to end in divorce.
- The increase in the overall earning capacity of women makes it that much harder for men to find partners they can safely out-earn. This could have two implications: First, fewer women may get married, and second, high-skilled women may take jobs they’re overqualified for to satisfy the roles imposed by gender identities—or they may not work at all. In regions and in periods of time when women’s wages go up relative to men’s, there are correspondingly fewer weddings.
- High-earning women may also compensate for adopting “male” identities by putting in more hours cooking dinner, doing laundry, and otherwise taking care of the home. W greater fraction of household work
It appears that despite the societal restraints on women in power, women are going to continue charging ahead. Society is just going to have to deal with it. Here’s some unintentionally hilarious (and yet sobering) advice on how men and women can make a relationship work where the woman brings home the bacon. Protip: “She still wants to be treated like a woman.”
P.S. More information about what men and women really think about gender equality can be found here.