Sitting in the “drafts” folder of my work e-mail account is a haughty response to a PR person paid to hock the sexist drivel of a self-proclaimed matchmaking guru who is at the ready to be interviewed on the topic of how to make your man comfortable when you’re out-earning him. Because as it turns out, an increasing number of Millennial women are out-earning their male partners.
And, you know, straight Millennial ladies should clearly go out of their way to make men feel more comfortable about that.
The matchmaker’s first tip? “Take a step back and let him lead.” And it gets better. “They’ve climbed the work ladder and found success on their own, but power in the workplace doesn’t always translate well at home. That drive to dominate is not an attractive relationship quality (for some men, at least),” the pitch read.
Also important: letting your man make important decisions, such as, I kid you not, where to get takeout tonight; making his talents a big deal so he doesn’t feel inadequate; realizing “in theory” that your money is his money; and other such vacuous gems.
The same person sent another pitch about a month later. This one was entitled “Dating for the #Girlboss – Is your independence intimidating? Celebrity matchmaker weighs in.” My favorite matchmaker contended that female independence may cause their male partners to perceive them as “inflexible, hard to deal with and unwilling to compromise.”
You know what Yosemite Sam looks like when steam comes out of his ears? Upon reading this I looked rather like that, but less mustachioed.
Why do pitches like this get me so incensed? It’s the reasoning behind them. While women still face plenty of hurdles to gain full equality with men, more and more women are advancing professionally. More of them are financially independent or higher wage earners than their male partners. In essence, more women are kicking ass at life than ever before. And that includes Millennial women.
Some folks, like this matchmaker, are trying to capitalize on women’s successes, not by appealing to them and celebrating them but by giving them advice on how to play those successes down so the men in their lives can feel like nothing has changed.
This is unequivocally dumb.
You know what my advice would be to women whose male partners can’t handle their success? Give the guy a tissue box and tell him to call you when he’s done mourning the demise of his machismo. (Insert sassy GIF of Beyoncé here.)
Allow me to set the record straight on something before I delve into this further. Women in the United States still, on average, make 21 cents less for every dollar men make for doing the exact same work. And, according to the United States Census Bureau, the median income of women aged 25 to 34 is $11,000 less than those of men in the same age range. The gender pay gap is real. It’s one thing Ivanka Trump and I agree on. (And that’s about as far as I’ll go with any Trump references this time. CNN’s got the other 1,439 minutes of your day covered.)
But women are making headway. In 1987, about 18% of women made more than their husbands. In 2015, 38% of women earned more.
Overall, women’s earnings are on the rise compared to decades past. The median income of working women aged 25 to 34 rose from $23,000 in 1975 to $29,000 in 2015. Also, the share of women making $60,000 grew from 2% of American women to 13% over the same time period. Personally, I’d like to see bigger gains than these. But they still represent progress.
In 1975, just under half of young women were employed. Today, two-thirds of Millennial women aged 25 to 34 are employed.
There are now more women with college degrees in the U.S. than men, whose average income levels are falling, according to the census.
What’s going on here? Well, the priorities of young women are changing. An April report by the United States Census Bureau found that “between 1975 and 2016, the share of young women who were homemakers fell from 43% to 14% of all women aged 25 to 34.”
Millennial women are also putting off marriage. “In 1995, women had a 59% chance of marrying by the age of 25. As of 2010, they had a 44% chance, a decline of 15 percentage points in just 15 years,” the census report stated. But the chances of Millennial women being married by age 40 dropped only 2%, from 86% to 84%. In other words, women are almost just as likely to get married – but the likelihood they will do so at a young age has “fallen sharply,” the report concluded.
What are we doing, if not settling down and having kids?
As economist Christopher Thornberg pointed out during California State University, Long Beach’s annual Regional Economic Forum event earlier this year, it’s not immigrants we should look to when it comes to changes in job distribution and wages. It’s women (and our college degrees). I have a feeling we won’t get kicked out of the country, though. But we might hit our own wall of sorts if health care reform reduces access to birth control. (And who wants to bet our male friends will get to keep their Viagra?)
Young women should be encouraged and applauded for making headway in the workplace, especially when they have to contend with greater obstacles to success, like surmounting the pay gap.
And young women who do find success should certainly not be made to feel like that success is off-putting to the men they are romantic with – or men in general. Are men told to play down their successes at work to their female partners for fear that those women might feel inadequate?
No. They are not.
Not too long ago, I went on a couple of dates with someone who was a bit flaky about following up on plans. On one of these occasions, he told me his flakiness came from two places. One, he was moving to another city. The other? He said I intimidated him.
He surprised me with that one. My knee-jerk reaction was to reassure him, but as I opened my mouth to do so, I realized I had nothing to apologize for.
So instead, I took another sip of my drink and just smiled.
And you know what? He didn’t transform into a puddle of melted manhood before my eyes. Imagine that.