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

Female breadwinner and 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 ‘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 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.’

5 Best Novels for Christmas Gifts for Female Breadwinners

Beyond the Boys ClubIf you are stuck for what to get that favourite female breadwinner in your life this Xmas, look no further with these 5 recommendations.

1. The Observations by Jane Harris
2. Gone Girl by Gillian Flynn
3. Fingersmith by Sarah Waters
4. The Immortal Life of Henrietta Lacks by Rebecca Skloot
5. The Road from Coorain by Jill Kerr Conway

We’d also recommend ‘Beyond the Boys’ Club: Strategies for Achieving Career Success as a Woman Working in a Male Dominated Field’ as a stocking stuffer!

October Book Reviews – Sex & the Modern Woman

I love revisiting a great classic read. In particular I enjoy rereading books that force me to think in a new way. These are three very different books on a fascinating topic; sex and the modern woman. These are still as thought provoking today as they were when they were first published.

The Hite report review The Hite report: by Shere Hite: This best-selling book in the 1970’s was the first to look at the sexual experiences of normal women. Hite gave us the unvarnished truth free from media stereotypes and societal expectations. Not a light read, but her interviews with over 3,000 women aged 14 to 78 will get you thinking about the ‘normality’ of your own sex life like never before.



Anatomy of love review Anatomy of Love by Dr. Helen Fisher: This book fascinated me as I started to date at University. Dr. Fisher, an anthropologist, unravelled the mysteries behind flirting, jealousy, intimacy, homosexuality, infidelity, and why men & women approach seem to mating and finding love so differently. She deftly uses four million years of evolutionary history to explain why we’re attracted to our partners and how this affects our decisions around love, marriage and even divorce.



Promiscuities review Promiscuities by Naomi Wolf: One of my favorite authors, Wolf explores female sexuality and what it means to come of age as a modern woman. Tracking a group of adolescent girls as they reach womanhood, this book addresses how normal psychosexual development is constrained through the historical repression of women and a modern prevalence of pornography. The stories within are candid and bold, funny and shocking and feature the bittersweet yet sometimes crippling realities that make up a young woman’s journey to sexual and emotional maturity.

Book Reviews; Favourite Feminist Classic Reads for Female Breadwinners

I thought  this month, I’d share some of my favourite feminist classics that helped spark the revolution for modern women.

backlashBacklash: The Undeclared War Against American Women by Susan Faludi.  This book is one of the most thoroughly researched exposes on how ever-malleable statistics and the media have been used against women.  After university it was an eye-opener for me on how the Moral Right twists dubious research to their political agenda to limit the potential of women. While several years old, it is still a wake-up call that uses humor, logic, and moral clarity to elucidate the backlash against women’s progress of the last four decades. Faludi followed Backlash a few years later which tackled the crisis of modern masculinity, with the aptly named ‘Stiffed: The Betrayal of the  American Man’ – a book that first engaged me with the flip side to the rise of female breadwinners.  Published in 1999, a full decade before most were even discussing the supposed growing obsolescence of men, Faludi is often light years ahead of her contemporaries when it comes to looking at relevant social issues.

beauty mythThe Beauty Myth by Naomi Wolf.  This first book by Naomi Wolf was the reason I decided to specialise and major in both psychology and women’s studies.  She detailed how the beauty industry creates and then benefits from a preoccupation with women’s appearance.  This hard-hitting expose explains how modern western culture alienates women from their own bodies and sexuality.  She uses examples ranging from eating disorders, cosmetic surgery and pornography to illustrate how constraining, devaluing and insidious the beauty myth actually is to women worldwide.


feminine mystiqueThe Feminine Mystique by Betty Friedan.  I was lucky enough to have dinner with Betty Friedan while an undergraduate at St. Mary’s College of Maryland when I was completing my women’s studies degree – and one I’ll not be fortunate enough to repeat as she passed away in 2006. It was inspiring sitting with a woman whose book, arguably, helped ignite a feminist revolution in 1963 when it was first published.  She detailed “the problem with no name”– the sense of malaise, the sense of disappointment and unfilled potential of educated women who were largely expected to leave work upon marriage.  Historically middle class women were encouraged to be educated not for their professional potential, but so they could become entertaining wives and good mothers. There was no further productive value to her education, thus leading to a lack of fulfillment, boredom, and generations of wasted female talent.  This is a classic for any feminist worth her salt.

second sexThe Second Sex by Simone de Beavoir.  Beavoir, a feminist philosopher, galvanized millions of readers with this tome. I even saw a hardback copy in a male senior banker’s office a few years ago – you could have knocked me over with a feather. Kudos to him! Detailing research on women’s bodies and their historic and economic roles, this book is a well-argued treatise on inequality and the enforced sense of ‘otherness’ of all women.  She demonstrates, by comparing early humans with the life of modern women today, that we are only marginally better off, or even have regressed when considering the hyper-sexualization and rigid expectations around appearance. A philosophers take on what it means to be an ‘evolved’ woman.

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