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She’s the man. Men are finished. Are men financially irrelevant?

International Women’s Day is March 8th. So all posts this week would be women centric (but will be interesting for men too :) ).

This week, I wanted to write about personal finance and career topics that are specific to women. While going through my bookmarks for some other information, I came across a debate that I wanted to hear last September. I bookmarked it to hear the recording, forgot about it later and never got around to actually listening to the debate.

I checked again last weekend and was surprised to see the results of the debate. What was that debate about? – Men are finished. Do you agree?

In a modern, post-industrial economy that seems better suited to women than men, many are wondering if men have been permanently left behind. Education and employment statistics point to a clear and growing dominance in women’s status at home and in the workplace. Are men primed for a comeback or have the old rules changed for good?

Men are finished debate

As I mentioned I bookmarked this before the debate and was surprised to see people who believe “Men are finished” rose from 20% pre-debate to 66% post-debate. You can listen to the entire debate here – Men are finished. Or you can listen to Hanna Rosin’s (one of the debaters who argued for the motion) TED talk – New data on rise of women, which gives the gist of the debate in 16 mins.

 

I want to share some of the arguments made in that debate and my own research on the statistics to talk about two questions. The first one is the topic of this debate

1. Are men finished?

and the second one that naturally stems from the first topic is, if men are finished in the professional and economic world and women are out earning them,

2. Are men financially irrelevant?

This post is not to answer these questions but rather to start a discussion. I will provide my opinion based on two avenues

  1. Statistics (of course!)
  2. My personal life.

Statistically speaking :

Are men finished?

In the TED talk there were several statistics and anecdotes, to prove the claim that men are finished -

  • In American fertility clinics, 75 percent of couples are requesting girls and not boys.
  • Women make up a majority of the workplace now.
  • In 1,997 out of 2,000 communities, women, young women, were making more money than young men.
  • We used to have a manufacturing economy, which was about building goods and products, and now we have a service economy and an information and creative economy. Those two economies require very different skills, and as it happens, women have been much better at acquiring the new set of skills than men have been.
  • Women are getting college degrees at a faster rate than men.
  • “Men are the new ball and chain.”
So does that mean men are kaput? Sorry, not so fast. Here are some other statistics that scream the opposite -
Fortune 500 women board
Does it look like the male species is finished?

Are men financially irrelevant?

When it comes to finance, according to the Virginia Tech Women’s wealth & philanthropy report,

  • The number of wealthy women in the U.S. is growing twice as fast as the number of wealthy men.
  • Women represent more than 40 percent of all Americans with gross investable assets above $600,000.
  • 45 percent of American millionaires are women.
  • 48 percent of estates worth more than $5 million are controlled by women, compared with 35 percent controlled by men.
  • 60 percent of high net worth women have earned their own fortunes.
  • Some estimate that by 2030, women will control as much as two-thirds of this nation’s wealth.
So does that means women have made it? Again, no. Here are some statistics from the Women in America study
  • Women are more likely to live in poverty than are adult men.  Single-mother families face particularly high poverty rates, often because of the lower wages earned by women in these families.
  • Female students are less well represented than men in science and technology-related fields, which typically lead to higher paying occupations.
  • Despite their gains in labor market experience and in education, women still earn less than men.
  • In part, this is because women and men work in different occupations, with women still concentrated in lower-paying and traditionally female occupations.
  • Women account for 46% of the labor force, but 59% of workers making less than $8 an hour.
I agree that none of these statistics prove that we still need the men, but it does throw some light on what still needs to be done.  I am sorry, Hanna, we do not dominate yet.

Personally speaking :

Personally, I would say the answer is “no” to both of these questions. Let us take my husband and I. Both of us hold advanced degrees, I work full-time & own a small business and last year I made a shade more than him. So does that mean my husband is financially irrelevant or that I “dominate” our household? No, it doesn’t work like that around here.

I made more last year because of him. Just because his name is not on the checks, that doesn’t mean he didn’t contribute.

  • I started the business, but he gave me the confidence to take the first step.
  • I implemented a lot of ideas over the last two years, but he put the seeds of those ideas in my mind and was also available for brainstorming.
  • I had to juggle a lot of tasks, he made sure I still stayed focused on what really mattered.
  • He had a lot of ideas but lost interest quickly in many of them. I took all his ideas, implemented them and stuck to it long enough to see the results.
  • I am creative and he helps give shape to my creations.
  • He pushed me to take a lot of risks, I resisted and in the end, it turned out we had taken enough risks to give us a nice benefit but not so much that we needed to put our life savings into it.
  • He took care of everything on the home front when I had to work long hours in my full time job.  That allowed me to spend my free time writing and not worry about the cooking or cleaning.

As you can see, neither one of us would have succeeded without the other. Where I lacked, he filled the void, where he was weak, I gave him strength.

I think this topic would fit in nicely as we celebrate women this week. Sometimes I think feminism is overdone and by sending the wrong message at times, we are missing the point – there are still women all over the world who are fighting for the right to even speak freely; there are plenty of women in this world who are stereotyped and their success attributed to their looks vs their intelligence; there are plenty of women in this world who can’t get an education because it is felt that they don’t need it.

Arguments on who dominates whom, according to me, shifts the focus on who is going to win the race and drops the ball on women who are still fighting for their basic rights. This video might have been done with good intentions, to encourage women, but it also makes me want to feel sorry for them. So does that mean women are already where they want to be? Oh hell no!

A lot of men and women are ditching the “this is woman’s work” and “that is a man’s job” to a system that works for them and their family. They’re simply changing and redefining their role in society in ways that defy old stereotypes. That doesn’t mean that one is less significant that the other.  How does that mean men are finished or that they are financially irrelevant?

All the women I know want to work with men, not against them. All the women I know, want 3 things from society

  1. Freedom of choice
  2. Respect
  3. Appreciation and acknowledgment for a job well done.

The saying used to be “Behind every successful man, there is a woman”, I think it would be appropriate to say “Behind every successful person, there is a partner”.  We still have a long way to go with equality. If we don’t fight about who gets the trophy, may be we can all win.

Now, your turn. Do you think men are finished or that they are financially irrelevant? 

Do you agree to the motion that men are finished?

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Do you think men are financially irrelevant now?

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{ 27 comments… read them below or add one }

Daisy

I don’t think men are finished OR financially irrelevant. I think women are still at a huge disadvantage in the workplace and in society. I still see people preferring boys to girls (and girls to boys) when having a baby (I myself would rather have 4 girls than 1 boy, but that’s simply because i don’t know how to handle boys). Women are dominating post secondary education now, but we won’t see the results of that for years to come. So we’ll see.

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Suba

I would like a boy, but that is only because I feel girls are closer to their father than their mother. I would like to have 2 men (my husband and my son) on my side than my husband to have two women doting on him :) But on a serious note, I agree with you. We are still at a disadvantage without even realizing we are…

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eemusings

I want two kids and if I can’t have one of each, I’d rather two girls than two boys.

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Bryan

As with anything we can prove our own point if we want to do so. Thank you for bringing the bigger picture into play and in my opinion not slanting the whole subject in one direction. Very nice post.

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Suba

Thanks Bryan. I agree with you on proving our own agenda. There are statistics for almost every side. We could only go with what personal experience we have I think. I was looking at the data for charitable giving and based on who pays “me” more, I could prove poor people give more to charity or rich people give more to charity lol.

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John | Married (with Debt)

I think it’s dangerous territory for women when the conventional wisdom says men are finished, but the data do not bear it out. This means that men will get the best of both: women can think they’ve moved ahead and men get to remain ahead.

I think the demise of the single-income household has been one of the biggest losses for our country over the past 50 years. As more women entered the workforce, wages were reduced so that families earn less than before.

As the father of two daughters (one who was born on Int’l Women’s Day), I look forward to seeing them become productive (but happy) members of society.

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Suba

Happy birthday to your daughter, John! I agree with you on the single income household. I don’t know if it is our lifestyle or general cost of living now makes single income household very difficult. I want to take a break for health reasons, but scared as hell that we won’t be able to “afford” my break.

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Funancials

I hope men are finished! That would mean I could stay at home and my girlfriend could soon take care of me forever. Crossing my fingers..

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Funancials

btw…did you remove the color from your header? I’m seeing something differently but can’t put my finger on it.

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Suba

Yep :) Someone noticed :) I removed the orange color in the header and made it all black and green. Not sure if I like it or not, my husband didn’t like the orange, so I thought I will give it a try.

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Hunter - Financially Consumed

Ha! My most popular post of all time is titled “She Is The Man Now”. Great topic. Men are far from irrelevant with the rise of women. Diversity makes us all stronger. Women have strengths in business that men simply don’t, and vice versa. There’s equal room at the table for both sexes.

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Suba

Yeah I remember that post, I tweeted and stumbled it too. If I remember right that was a few weeks, may be a month before this debate? May be you should write a rebuttal on the debate :)

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Tie the Money Knot

Nodody is irrelevant. Men are only irrelevant if they are perceived as being most important for their ability to bring in money. Today, both men and women can bring in money. Both men and women can also do work around the house and with children. Everybody is relevant, as long as people look past strictly defined gender roles.

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Suba

If men who are taking a role as caregivers are irrelevant that means all the stay at home moms are irrelevant too. I don’t know what logic some feminists use…

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frugalportland

Funny — no, men are not irrelevant, and they never will be.

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Suba

I agree no one, men or women are irrelevant, but unfortunately some (thankfully they are in a minority) women AND MEN think we can get ahead only by pushing others down.

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maria@moneyprinciple

I find this kind of question very difficult to answer. All empirical ‘evidence’ (statistics) that you offer supports neither one extreme n or the other. Neither men are finished nor women are where they used to be. As a social scientist I would say that the problem is that you stay with the analysis of the ‘empirical’ and the answer to your question lies in ‘causality’. In other words, your question cannot be answered by ‘what happens’ but has to move into ‘why this happens’.

An interesting question to me is whether after 2008 the world and the economy are becoming more ‘feminised’. If the answer to this question is ‘yes’ then it may be just possible that men are at a disadvantage very similar to the traditional disadvantages women were placed in: you build a musculine economy and few women get in the board rooms. I was in a situation where I had to tell a group of people at the same ‘leadership’ level that I would rather have breakfast with my son and dinner with my lover that with them. Apparently the wrong thing to say; but I stand by it. I got out of ‘traditional’ high level management and am very pleased about it. I consider myself to be at the forefront of the ‘feminine’ economy.

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Joe @ Retire By 40

It sounds like you have a great partnership going. Women are making more and more financial impact everyday. I think that’s a good thing and it doesn’t take anything away from the men. It’s not a zero sum game and the more women (and men) contribute, the better off we all will be.

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Untemplater

I didn’t know that couples could actually choose to have a girl or a boy at fertility clinics. I think women are definitely making strides but to say men are finished and financially irrelevant now is too extreme imo. I like how you talk about how you and your husband are a team and how your support system has brought about successes. I do admit I feel proud when I hear about female entrepreneurs and women in senior positions. -Sydney

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Shaun @ Smart Family Finance

A couple of thoughts:

I think STEM is slightly an overrated measure. Most “rich” people have degrees in things like economics, medicine and law. STEM is a good degree to have if you are in the middle class: for income/employment, but I don’t see a correlation with financial success.

Women also, ultimately, have to deal with giving birth. Having to leave the workforce or choosing to leave the workforce will always be a disadvantage. You might see the problem ease, but it will never go away. Unless of course we stop having children.

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WorkSaveLive

The @Funancials comment! I would love to stay at home all day! I am down for that…I pushed my wife to become a Doctor but I don’t think that is going to happen. haha

In seriousness, I think there is still some disparity in the wages of men and women (men with the upper-hand). With that said, I do firmly believe that women will own a majority of the wealth one day. Men are spenders and women are more frugal (from what I’ve personally seen in coaching – not sure if stats back that up).

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Christa

I thnk a lot of those figures can be skewed either way to support that men are on the decline in the world or that women still have a long way to go for equality. It’s really all about how you look at the figures individually. As a whole, though, it’s great to see that more women are taking strides in their educations, careers and finances that allow this to be such a huge discussion. I think society is on the right track to accepting people and their choices WITHOUT the need to classify them by gender; only then will we be equal.

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Julie @ Freedom 48

I think it differs based on personal experience. I know in our household… we’re complete 50/50 – and accomplish SO MUCH MORE because of each other. My husband does not hesitate to vacuum and pack lunches (typically “women’s work”), and I am comfortable picking up a screwdriver, a paint brush or a cordless drill any day!

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Dr Dean

No sex will have the upper hand for long. As with most things the balance may pitch back and forth along the mean but when it goes to far, something always happens to bring it back. These debates are great though, cause that means we aren’t spending our day looking for food, water, and shelter.

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SB @ One Cent at a Time

When do we have men’s day and men’d week? Shall we start from this year if this doesn’t exist?

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Thomas Lang

I have to say this. Agree with me or not, I think change is indeed happening all around us. Clearly the females will have the upper hand going forward. The males in U.S. society especially will have to learn to adapt just like I have had to. I think whats going to happen is this, women will get the upper hand, a couple generations later, women will dominate, and then what will happen is policy makers on both sides of the spectrum from government and in corporations are going to have to rethink all their policies out everything from hiring to retirement, to fairness laws. Like how the women have dealt with it, the same is going to be said about the males. Eventually as more women are the bread winners, run the businesses, hold positions of power and so forth something is going to have to be said about helping those men who are at economic and competitive disadvantage. As for this thing where women will be able to dictate what sex they want their child is to me unethical and selfish and should be left for biology to decide which gender is created for that child before their born. I hope that some laws bar that from happening here. Let Nature take its course as they say. I think sometimes we as human beings whether man or woman can cross the line and overstep that line and put one group of people out in the cold in favor of the other. I say discrimination is alive and well in U.S. society still.

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Financial Samurai

I’m really hoping that men are finished, so that we can relieve ourselves of society’s pressures to make money and take care of the family.

I, for one, need a break and wouldn’t mind just focusing on my writing and having the woman take care of me.

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