What has feminism got to do with financial independence?
Well…quite a lot actually. The Escape Artist knows a lot of complicated shit about finance. I don’t usually include it in my blogposts but today I’m gonna start with some advanced level stuff:
All else being equal, a couple that both work are likely to earn more than a couple where one of them is at home chained to the kitchen sink
I know! With content like this, it’s no surprise that The Escape Artist was recently voted second best finance blog in THE ENTIRE UNIVERSE by my Mum (she prefers Mr Money Mustache).
You may say this is obvious…but during my career, I noticed that some (mostly high-earning) males didn’t want their partner to work. Some wanted the convenenience of a permanently stocked fridge and well-ordered household. Some probably wanted the sole title of breadwinner to boost their ego / self-identity. I guess this is OK if you’re earning mega-bucks and both partners agree that’s what they want.
But generally, if you’re interested in financial independence, you’re gonna want both members of your partnership contributing to household income. For people in the accumulation phase, The Escape Artist says:
All other things being equal, the more your partner earns the better
This may seem obvious…but its surprising how many people don’t see it. A female friend once suggested to The Escape Artist that he “wouldn’t be able to handle it” if he was out-earned by a woman he was going out with. Not true! The Escape Artist would have been DELIGHTED to be out-earned by a girlfriend / wife.
That’s not just some theoretical point….its been the reality for much of the last 3 years. Those 3 years have seen my income fall off a cliff as my former employer seized on the fact that I’m no longer working for them as an excuse to stop paying me.
Meanwhile, my wife’s part time accounts job has grown. She has out-earned and out-worked me for much of that time. In fact, as I write this I’ve just made supper for the kids whilst my wife is out at work. Despite that, The Escape Artist remains secure in his masculinity.
Getting to financial independence is hard enough with two incomes, let alone one. So guys, if you have a woman in your life that wants to work, it would be madness not to support her in that.
[As an aside, the equation obviously changes when you introduce babies into the mix…there are good financial and non-financial reasons for one partner to stay at home then…but that’s not what I’m talking about in this article.]
One of the reasons for the incredible increase in prosperity over the past 100 years is that we fixed the crazy situation where the talents of half of the population were suppressed or ignored. So, yes, The Escape Artist is in favour of sisters doing it for themselves.
You would’ve thought that we could all agree on this and get on happily with the business of becoming wealthy. But The Escape Artist has noticed that this subject seems to make a small but vocal minority of people disproportionately angry.
When you see a commentator who’s angry with the other sex, its often because something bad happened to them in their earlier life for which they blame the opposite sex. So what do angry feminists and angry misogynists have in common? Bitterness.
When you hear an angry feminist ranting about The Patriarchy or that students should sign consent agreements before sex on campus etc etc, that’s a clue they may have been treated badly by men earlier in their life….possibly even assaulted.
Something similar goes for angry misogynists…they’ve probably never quite got over being dumped / rejected by women.
So when you read stuff from these people, the appropriate response is to try to understand and sympathise with them. But don’t take most of their policy prescriptions too seriously; they’re usually unworkable.
If you read or watch The News (which I don’t recommend) you’ll see plenty of nonsense articles and debates about gender inequality. This is a problem because if people think the deck is unfairly stacked against them they’re likely to give up…even if they are wrong and the system is (mostly) fair.
I’m not saying that all workplaces are always fair. That’s not realistic. But in my working life, I learnt a bit about the hard choices required for career success, including the different participation rates of men and women in this game.
When I first trained as an accountant, women were outnumbered and it was still felt necessary to encourage more into the profession. By the time I quit work 20 years later, the entry statistics had tilted something like 55:45 in favour of women. This progress happened fast and attitudes didn’t always keep up.
So has equality been achieved? Well it depends how you define equality. There’s a HUGE difference between equality of opportunity and equality of outcome.
The Escape Artist believes in equality of opportunity. But I don’t believe in equality of outcome anymore than I believe in leprechauns. It’s never existed in any country under any economic system in all of human history.
So yes, a gender gap remains. There are more men than women at the highest pay levels…and these high earners skew the averages so that on average men get paid more than women. But its bizarre when you see articles that say a pay gap is conclusive evidence of sexism in the workplace. Has anyone even considered the possibility that many women just don’t want to do the more bonkersly extreme (and high paid) jobs?
Those people that say that well paid jobs like CEO or corporate law partner or finance rainmaker should be made more family friendly to attract more women have it 180 degrees wrong. Those jobs are well paid in large part because they are brutally family unfriendly. They are hard to get, then harder to hold down (see here for tips) . Women are just as capable of doing those high pressured jobs as men but perhaps they often choose not to?
When I was working in the City, I knew one high powered woman who was head of the corporate department for her law firm. She died in her late 40s of an alcohol related illness. Alcoholism is commonplace amoungst senior lawyers, doctors and other high earning professionals (male and female) who often use it as a coping mechanism.
Maybe the question is not how can we encourage more women to do those jobs? Maybe the question is why would they want to?
Men and women are equal but not the same. I’m gonna have to spell out the obvious here….so we need to have a little talk about the birds and the bees.
Men and women evolved different sexual characteristics. Women have only a limited number of eggs and are the only sex that gets pregnant. Differences in biology cause differences in behaviour. So, for example, it makes sense for women to be choosier (on average) in their mating strategy than men who can disappear over the horizon after conception. It seems obvious to me that’s primarily a biological difference…more down to nature than nurture.
The truth is that guys are often more prepared to put up with corporate nonsense in return for ever more money and more status. Men evolved to specialise in hunting (which requires single-minded focus and tolerating gore) and this may explain their relative lack of squeamishness compared to women. Women on the other hand are generally better at balancing work and life, better at managing relationships, more emotionally intuitive. As a result, women are far less likely to end up as Walking Wallets. Maybe women know something that many of us men don’t?
Its sad when politicians, journalists and internet commentators try to whip up anger at the fact that women don’t do those extreme (often soul destroying) jobs as often as men. The implicit assumption is that everyone should always want to earn the most money possible…regardless of the costs in terms of stress, long hours, lack of freedom etc. They see the world through a frame of consumerism where more money => more stuff => more happiness. Its all bullshit.
The Escape Artist is all in favour of people earning more and achieving as much success as they are capable of. But its important to ask yourself what your motives are. For me, ~10 years hard graft in the second half of my career was a price worth paying to get to financial freedom. Doing that forever just to buy more stuff would be insanity.