A new paper has found that the largest impediment to women's careers may be, as the Economist labeled it, the male paycheck, although the male ego would be a more accurate description. Apparently, relationships where women earn more than their spouses lead to unhappier marriages. In cases where women had the potential to earn a higher salary, many of them opted to work at jobs that paid less or did not work at all.
Understandably, this led to the assumption that these women were deliberately taking a back seat to salvage their husband's egos or preserve their marriages. Another assumption was that maybe having to assume a heavier domestic workload prevented these women from earning their real worth.
Either way, the study demonstrates what we have known all along - that there's still a lot of work to do with respect to gender equality. If a higher paid women is still causing men to re-think their marriage vows then apparently we haven't progressed as far as we have anticipated.
The findings had me scratching my head for some time. Having been raised in a traditional Middle Eastern household, I had believed culture played a large role in the gender inequality that still persists in the region. We expect such limitations in a patriarchal society. Friends with ties to similar patriarchal cultures, such as Latin America, face the same restrictions. The men rule, and if they don't rule then you make them believe they do. So some machismo is expected, as well as plenty of sexism.
But then I moved to the Heartland 13 years ago, and found many women who are fine with having men lead. This dynamic spills into the workforce, where female supervisors shrink in the company of male colleagues. They are okay with men controlling each interaction, even if they hold the same title.
Could the culprit be religion? Living in the Bible Belt, locals are still influenced by traditional gender roles where men served as head of households and women played the supporting and nurturing matriarch. Same goes for the Middle East and Latin America, where faith still rules. While some may argue that religion does not stereotype but rather encourages equality, traditionally males have been allotted a more dominant role in the scriptures.
Not a criticism, just food for thought.