Partner spends too much or too little? Lessons for modern female breadwinners

Female breadwinner and spendingMarketplace.com recently looked at ‘Being the breadwinner: A blessing and a curse’. In it, Mackenzie Dawson and I discussed how to react if your male partner spends too little or too much. This is a conundrum made even trickier when you add in gender politics. I’ve coached a banking executive whose lower earning husband didn’t feel he deserved the villa holidays she wanted for them. He insisted they go camping instead. Their compromise? One luxury and one camping holiday a year, that they both paid for respectively.

Equally, I’ve worked with female clients who felt their other halves were a bit too self-indulgent with yet another set of golf clubs, studio recording equipment or lavish nights out with the boys. Have an ongoing and honest dialogue with your partner; people are fluid so continually checking in that it still works well for both of you is vital.

Dawson asked me for my top tips for dealing with partners who spend too much or too little:

  • Lower earning partners may question if they should be spending your earnings. Some will feel reticent to spend it since they haven’t technically earned it through their own paid labour – spending ‘her’ money can be a threat to their masculinity. A great way to change their attitude is to ask how they would feel about you spending their money if they were the main earner? “Often men can see the double standard they are imposing on themselves when they realize they would be happy to provide for her.”

  • On the other hand, potential tensions arise if they are a bit too free with the cash; talk about your joint goals as a family. Ask him about his ideas for the 2 or 3 big goals you have for the year. You each pick a goal plus (new bedroom furniture or a golf trip with the boys) a third you jointly pick, such as a family holiday to Greece. Determine a limit on how much you’ll spend on each goal. Then when decisions over cash come up; ask how spending that money gets you closer or further away from that goal.

Women drive social media growth

Women and social mediaIt’s now widely known that women are responsible for purchasing 80% of household goods according to The Wall Street Journal. Their combined purchasing power makes companies sit up and take notice. Plus, according to ‘Women Want More’ by Michael Silverstein women are more likely to take recommendations from friends when trying new products, so it’s even more important for brands to relate to their female audience – and through the mediums they favour. On financeonline.com: ‘Why women are the real power behind social media’, found of the 1,801 adults surveyed, women use social media more often and in different ways than men. Here are some facts:

  • Women were more common users of Facebook (76% vs 66%), tumblr (54% vs 46%) and Pinterest (33% vs 8%).
  • 30% of women used social media several times a day.
  • 58% of women used social media for news.
  • Instagram, Pinterest and Tumblr gained 10 million new users in 2013, the majority being women.
  • 53% of women found special offers through their social media interaction with brands.

When looked at this way, women dominate social media – and why shouldn’t they – it’s ultimate utility is in making and maintaining relationships; a human urge, but one to which women are particularly well-attuned. So how much sense does it make for the main creators of social media to be men? ‘When we need people who understand both tech and the person buying it, women who have combined the technical expertise and softer skills such as empathy, will thrive’. Nadja von Massow, head of creative at The GIG at DST believes women are better communicators than men. They tend to choose roles which combine their tech skills with communication, such as, social media marketing, PR and client services. Social media marketing’s advancing and it’s creating an even greater wealth of opportunities for women in tech, both as users and servers.

Why Sheryl Sandberg’s ‘Lean In’ culture is killing us

leanin_2506122bAs you can imagine, the recent article in the Washington Post :’Recline, Don’t Lean In: Why I Hate Sheryl Sandberg‘ caught our eye. As an organisation that helps women and men ‘lean in’ to workplace gender equality, we recognise that ‘leaning in’ is de rigour for any aspiring professional. However, it’s a hollow victory if we only achieve equality of exhaustion.

The article by Rosa Brooks, a foreign policy expert, explains the dangers of continuously leaning in: ‘We’ve created a world in which ubiquity is valued above all. If you’re not at your desk every night until nine, your commitment to the job is questioned. If you’re not checking email 24/7, you’re not a reliable colleague. But in a world in which leaning in at work has come to mean doing more work, more often, for longer hours, women will disproportionately drop out or be eased…Because unlike most men, women — particularly women with children — are still expected to work that “second shift” at home.’

Brooks continue: ‘Men today do more housework and childcare than men in their fathers’ generation, but ..as long as women are the ones doing more of the housework and childcare, women will be disproportionately hurt when both workplace expectations and parenting expectations require ubiquity. They’ll continue to do what too many talented women already do: Just as they’re on the verge of achieving workplace leadership positions, they’ll start dropping out.’

While ubiquity hurts women, men are not escaping the ill effects either. I spoke at a corporate event last week where the main topic became how the ‘Always On’ culture is a key reason for the departure of both women and men. I think the difference is that women have to be more honest and prioritise their families, whereas men are more reluctant to publicly admit to their exhaustion. But this comes with a heavy cost for us all.

As Brooks explains: ‘Henry Ford didn’t advocate the eight-hour day for his auto assembly line workers because he was a nice guy. He advocated the eight-hour day because research demonstrated that worker productivity cratered after more than eight hours. As Brigid Schulte documents in her forthcoming book, “Overwhelmed: Work, Love and Play When No One Has the Time,” humans can only take so much for so long. When a workplace is full of employees who always lean in and never lean back, it’s full of employees who are exhausted, brittle and incapable of showing much creativity or making good decisions.’

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