It’s been nearly ten years since I added the phrase “opting-out” to the work/life/gender/parenting conversation, in a 2003 magazine piece that explored the phenomenon of educated women stepping off the fast career track when they have children.
Since then, people have been telling me that the article made them angry — at me, for letting down Feminism and suggesting that women couldn’t do it all; at themselves, for being the women I wrote about; at the women I wrote about, for either copping out or having an escape hatch not available to everyone; at corporate America, for the outdated workplace paradigm that was built around a male biological clock and that forced women to choose between work and family.
I have always wondered whether there would be the same anger at a story about men choosing to ratchet back their careers — work less, earn less, climb less of the ladder.
It looks like I am getting the chance to find out.
Liza Mundy’s new book. “The Richer Sex: How the New Majority of Female Breadwinners is Transforming Sex, Love and Family,” is about many things. As its title suggests, it starts with the prediction that the economic relationship between the sexes is about to flip. Women are already outpacing men in some places and professions, Mundy writes, and in a shift that she compares to “the rise of agrarian society, the dawn of the industrial age, the ascent of the white-collar office worker, and the opening of the global economy” she extrapolates that women will come to be the majority of primary breadwinners in the US. The resulting changes in “the economy and the workplace,” she writes, “will shape human behavior by challenging some of the most primal and hard-wired ways men and women see one another, It will alter how we mate, how and when we join together, how we procreate and raise children, and to use the phrase of the founders, how we pursue happiness.” READ MORE