Watch out, men. We’re about to enter a brave new world. Women will earn more than you. They will continue to get a better education, and perform better in exams than you.
The change will be so pronounced there may be even be quotas to ensure you’re represented at the top of business. Oh, and this may affect your sex life. Welcome to the future, where women are finally on top.
Or so says Liza Mundy, the author of The Richer Sex, in a startling cover essay for The Spectator disguised as a call to arms for female empowerment.
Based on conjecture and one key figure - how much British men and women are earning in their twenties - Mundy writes: “To see the future, look at today’s twentysomethings: there, it is the women who have now opened a small gap. For many years, when a woman out-earned her husband, it tended to mean he was ailing or unemployable. This is no longer the case: female breadwinning is a phenomenon at all income levels.”
The Spectator’s Coffee House blog, which hosts some supporting data - including a table that shows the median hourly pay for full time employees age 22-29 split by gender, where men earn 2.5% less, at a meager £10.07 versus women’s £10.32.
The selective use of hourly data hides the fact that women still take home less money than men - because they work fewer hours. Other figures from the Office for National Statistics’ 2011 Annual Survey of Hours and Earnings showing gross weekly earnings for all workers age 22-29 is £413.70 for men is and £398.5 for women (see p.19).
Mundy says we Brits need to get with the programme - before it’s too late. She notes a study using “Danish data” that showed men whose partners out-earned them “were more likely to take medication for erectile dysfunction.”
Anecdotally, she once interviewed a woman whose therapist suggested her husband turned to online porn “because he’s insecure - it makes him feel more manly”. On the other hand, Mundy predicts men could “panic” about marriage if they are single “by a certain age.”
Plus, it contains some startling misinterpretations. The blog claims, “in 1997, the average female employee earned 17 per cent less than the average male one. That gap has now fallen to 10.5 per cent.” Really? According to the European Commission British women actually earn 19.5% less - one of the highest pay gaps in Europe.
But back to the piece, which, aside from the stats, fails to take note of one thing - The C word. Childcare. Of course, Mundy claims that the female breadwinning might lead the male member of a couple to pull out when it’s time to have kids. But for Dr Amy M Russell, Director of the Centre for Interdisciplinary Gender Studies at Leeds University, this is not a recognisable pattern.
“I think that society has not changed as radically as it is suggested,” she tells the Huffington Post UK. Younger women with few commitments may command larger salaries these days than they once did, but later in life this may change when the majority of women will have children.
“Women still do the majority of childcare. While more men are contributing to childcare the larger proportion of the burden still falls to women. In addition women are more likely to be carers to other relatives and the aging population means this demand on women's time will only increase. This means that women have to seek flexible, part time, often precarious work - the types of work that often commands lower salaries.”
Dr Rosie Campbell, a senior lecturer in politics at Birkbeck university agrees, saying: “It's clear women are doing well before they hit childbearing age but then they continue to do the lion's share of caring work for children”.
“Until we have proper paid 'Daddy' leave for a substantial number of months and much better help with childcare, in the form of state provision or really sizeable tax relief these 'hang-ups' will remain.
“In reality women are the lower earners in most families with children and they for-go income that they would have earned had they stayed on their pre-baby trajectory- putting them in a precarious financial predicament in the case of family breakdown.”
According to Dr Amy M Russell, Director of the Centre for Interdisciplinary Gender Studies at Leeds University, Mundy’s assumptions are flawed.
“We cannot presume that higher grades or more qualifications equates to better employment and higher salaries,” says Russell.
“I know many very qualified people on minimum wage and most of those are mothers who left the workforce to have children and have returned to part time work. I note the proportion of female graduates for physics or engineering weren't cited.”
According to Mundy, the word ‘Pursewhipped’ - where women are the breadwinner is “slowly entering” the everyday lexicon? The only evidence we found of it was in a column by Tony Parsons in September’s British GQ about why no man should earn more than his wife, a sort of condensed male version of The Feminine Mystique, which includes the terms “breadwinner” and “real man”.
So, men, rest easy. The feminist project isn’t over yet because of a few good GCSEs.