From the gleaming office towers of major corporations and the hallways of giant health-care conglomerates to college classrooms and the living rooms of private households, the world is witnessing a revolution as profound—and as transformative—as the Industrial Revolution of the 19th century. In the coming decades, women will overtake men as primary breadwinners and become the most financially powerful generation of women in history. We’ve all seen the news reports on startling statistical trends (women are better educated than men and dominate seven of the 10 biggest growth industries in the U.S., the number of single women under 30 who out-earn their male peers is skyrocketing, more and more wives are becoming their family’s sole breadwinner, etc.). Now, for the first time ever, a journalist has done the research to tell us how this phenomenon is going to change our lives – in the workplace, at home, and in the bedroom – for the better.
In THE RICHER SEX: How the New Majority of Female Breadwinners is Transforming Sex, Love, and Family (Simon & Schuster; March 20, 2012; $27.00), best-selling author and Washington Post reporter Liza Mundy examines this new reality in detail, providing an eye-opening portrait of the current state of affairs as well as provocative predictions about who will prevail – and how relationships will evolve as the reversal of traditional roles becomes the norm.
While the media often highlights the negative repercussions of the increasing economic power of women, Mundy argues that “Women’s earnings will bring a new liberation for women but also for men.” Interviews and surveys make it clear that adjustments in attitude and behavior are already widespread. The notorious “second shift,” which saw working women taking on the responsibilities of parenting and housekeeping as well, has given way to the realization that gender need not—indeed, should not—define the role partners play in the household: “Sometimes it really is preferable—and necessary—for one spouse to be the high-powered partner and the other to provide the behind-the-scenes support.”
The economic ascendancy of women is also, not surprisingly, altering the most personal area of our lives: romance and sex. Mundy dispels the popular notion that men enjoy sex more than women do and contends that both men and women will have better sex in the coming years. According to her research, “Women’s sexual energy and self-confidence have been unleashed along with women’s earning power.” Self-supporting women, she notes, “are using their resources to have more sex and better sex” before settling down with (or settling for) a long-term partner. Mundy also argues that the laws of attraction will shift as women begin to embrace their career accomplishments as sexual assets and as men discover the sexual attractiveness of high-achieving women.
The desire to settle down with someone of the same education level and earning power remains strong. But just as the longtime imperative of marrying within one’s own religious or ethnic group is disappearing, women and men are rethinking the question of “matching.” Men are coming to understand the advantages of having a well-educated and highly paid partner, and while most women still seek men who are “on their level,” many are overcoming their reservations about “marrying down” and are focusing instead on the finding the qualities and shared interests that can form the foundation of a strong and lasting relationship.
A breakthrough look at an economic and cultural shift of far-reaching implications, THE RICHER SEX joins such seminal books as Betty Friedan’s The Feminine Mystique and Susan Faludi’s Backlash in its power to change perceptions and establish a foundation for a society that will enrich the lives of all.