My regular roundup of the week’s blog and financial site links.
I don’t know exactly what I think about feminism, and in particular demands that more should be done to promote equality of outcomes for men and women in career and pay.
I say ‘outcomes’ because that is different from ‘opportunity’.
To me it’s very clear that a woman who wants to achieve something professionally, who has all the talent and drive of her male equivalent – and who will put the same hours in – should meet no prejudice.
But that is not the same it should be made easier for her then for a man.
On a financial level, I’m more dogmatic. Unfortunately it’s now financially reckless if you’re a man to marry a woman who is anything other than your financial equal.
The same is true if she’s your equal but she intends to take ten years out of her career to stay at home.
With some 50% of marriages ending in divorce, the chances are evens yours will, too. Laws and courts that still take their cues from the 19th Century when women were chattel and divorced women ‘worthless’ will at this point likely sign over half of everything a man owns, even his pension.
Men regularly find themselves living in bedsits while their wife and kids continue to enjoy the ex-family home, which the man still pays for. Incredibly, you can even end up paying money to your wife and her lover to raise the child they had while you were still married. And you won’t get a rebate for all the money you paid for her upkeep when you were the sole earner.
(The same would be true for a wealthier wife, though in my experience these are still very rare, and women also tend to be granted custody of children and thus the home).
Remember, this isn’t under your control. Divorce isn’t debated anymore, and there’s little stigma. Whenever your husband or wife decides enough is enough, they can call it in.
I think 50% downside and 0% upside are terrible odds, unless you enjoy playing Russian roulette. At the very least, forget marrying that wonderful but poorly-paid environmental activist or nurse or aspiring novelist you’re in love with – look for a wealthy heiress.
Already I know 80% of readers will be cross, because the entire agenda of the media is still skew towards female empowerment. This is a hangover from the moral force of feminism when it was vitally in the right: the 1960s and 1970s.
Today women do better at school, more women are training to be doctors, and women even earn more than men in their twenties.
Yet you rarely read about the flipside : men falling back in school, or dropping behind in their careers. This despite the fact that most human progress on a scientific and technical level was achieved by men. Surely society should be terrified?
It is also men who have suffered most from the shifting economic landscape of the past three decades:
- Communication skills are in / strong backs are out
- Empathy is in / stiff-upper lips are out
- Correctness is in / the banter of Mad Men is estranged
- Portfolio working is in / careerism is out
There must be ten photos of smiling girls throwing their A-Level results into the air for every one article on the plight of the redundant male working class.
Nearly everything written about men and women is written from the pro-woman perspective. For instance, we’re often told about the glass ceiling in corporations. And yet a study by (from memory) Harvard found very little evidence of female MBAs earning less than male MBAs, unless they left the workforce to have kids.
There was no glass ceiling – there was the fact that someone in a hyper-competitive corporate environment who took several years out was at a disadvantage, just as surely as a man who spent a decade surfing in Fiji would be if he returned expecting a place on the board.
Or take again the issue of divorce. A woman has ‘sacrificed’ her career to stay-at-home, but what if we flip the genders to say:
The man admitted in court that he had spent ten years at home living off his wife’s earnings. Her lawyers found that she had spend some £200,000 keeping him in food, clothes, transport and home furnishings over the decade, while he contributed mainly by shopping and discussing which Polish cleaner to hire with his friends over a mid-afternoon coffee.
I’m not saying it’s wrong for women to stay at home while men work, or what have you: what’s right for individuals is fine by me.
What I’m saying is you’d never find the ‘sacrifice’ of the husband in terms of his money that pays for the whole family and his comparative lack of time at home written out in such terms.
…and yet this is clearly still a man’s world.
The U.S. has voted in black president, but it’s never elected a woman. Two decades after Margaret Thatcher was Prime Minister in the UK, fewer then one in five MPs is female. Men still dominate the business pages, and hold most of the positions of power in the legal system and the military. And of course women are wildly more likely to suffer from domestic violence or rape than men.
As for the rest of the world, it’s decades behind the U.S. and Europe, as you can see when desperate Western feminists start scrabbling for examples of inequality in the Sudan or India to justify some female empowerment program in Manchester or Milwaukee.
The question for me comes down to choice and opportunity versus outcomes, as I said above. Two excellent blog posts this week explored this territory from different perspectives:
After ten years in the workforce, only 10% of male MBAs went for six months or more without working, compared with 40% of female MBAs. If that wasn’t enough, over the first fifteen years of their careers, women work fewer hours than men (52 per week versus 58) – adding up to a whole six months’ worth of experience over those 15 years.
In short, women work less than men.
Presenting the other side of the case is the latest blogging superstar and sometime Monevator reader, Financial Samurai.
He takes a more traditional, pro-empowerment stance:
At the end of that one night of passion, someone has to give birth eventually. And since that someone is female, they should get as much slack as possible.
As I say, I’m not sure who I think is right, despite the fact some readers probably now have me labeled as a rabid misogynist for straying from the accepted line.
In terms of relationships, feminism and equality for women has surely helped destroy the stable marriages and families that most people claim to want.
And yet if I was a smart 15-year old girl living in the 1950s, I’d despair for the roles available to me. I’d go postal if I saw some mediocre, barely bothered bloke become the doctor or physicist I should have been while I was packed off to finishing school to learn to cook.
If I was such a girl, I know I’d gladly swap traditional society’s mores for the chance to use my brains and my talents to the fullest, even if I knew it would make a stable married life far less likely for me than for my mother.
In short, I’d choose the world we have today.
Some of the week’s personal finance blogs
- Oblivious Investor‘s book is free for you, with a catch – Oblivious Investor
- Five ways to screw your credit card company – Squawkfox
- Demographic trends and asset returns – Morningstar Adviser
- 9 great gift ideas for people who have everything – Len Penzo
- Will ETFs be viewed one day as a disaster? – Darwin’s Finance
- Pray your town doesn’t host the Olympics (oops!) – Weakonomics
Other interesting financial and money articles
- Cash ISAs beat equities over the past decade – Financial Times
- Rally means early retirement for some – Financial Times
- The FT has discovered the Psy-Fi blog (well done Tim!) – Financial Times
- Technology funds 10 years after the crash – The Telegraph
- Patients selling gold braces as metal soars – The Telegraph
- Derek Pain salutes the old Lloyds leaders – The Independent
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