research on women

ImagesThere has been a slew of research done on women these days from universities looking at how women engage in information vs men, how many women entrepreneurs are getting funded vs their male counterparts, the impact women make on businesses when they are involved at senior levels, etc.  I wish I could keep up on all the papers being written these days. 

We seem to be entering an era that is redefining feminism.  Women have always had options when it comes to the career world.  They can choose to stay in the game 100%, they can opt out and stay home for a time with their kids, they can stay in 50% or they can shift their focus from an every day job to perhaps part-time volunteerism.  Yet regardless of which road women take, we are the consumers of the majority of products in the household and are generally responsible for managing the finances of our homes. 

Dailyworth puts out three newsletters that are geared directly to women running their own finances.  The feedback from our readers have been empowering to the team.   I had lunch with someone this week who is trying to tap into why women tend to take a back seat when it comes to manging their finances with a financial adviser.  Is it because they don't care or is it because they don't feel comfortable doing it or is because it makes them scared that they might make a bad decision, would women prefer to work with women advisers vs men.  I am not sure what the answer is but we are going to drill down and find out. 

Here is an answer I would like that I never had understood.  Research says that men and women enter most fields after college in equal proportions.  At one point, basically around the time that women hit their early 30's they start to check out.  That is when many large corporations particularly finance, banking, law firms, start to look completely male driven at the top.  This is an issue that companies are very aware of and understand that this is something that needs to be resolved.  How can those companies attract women who are entering the workforce want to take jobs with companies that can't retain women once they hit a certain age.

Yet there is something I don't understand and never will.  When I was home with my kids living in the suburbs there were plenty of smart women who were part of the group that checked out of companies even though they had significant jobs and clout.  They did not embrace taking care of their families finances but almost signed up to be full time mothers that had stopped using their intelligence.  A plumber or electrician would come to their homes and they would literally say, please wait here while I call my husband.  This happened several times.  I found it fascinating.  These women ran organizations where they have large staffs and were responsible for many people but at home they became almost brain dead.  Why?  These are women with college degrees.  What happened when they shifted their focus to the home?  How come they took a back seat instead of a new role? 

We need to figure out how to keep women engaged who choose to opt out for a few years to stay home with the kids.   That is where I want to see research get done. 


Comments (Archived):

  1. Sharon

    Great questions; there has been a lot of research done on why smart women “opt-out” just at the time they enter senior positions.  One I can refer to is by Sylvia Anne Hewlett. She looked at women in Technology and the sciences and came up with 5 key factors: 1) Hostile Macho Culture; 2)Isolation;3)Mysterious career paths;4)System of risk reward; 5) Extreme work pressures and long hours.  My own research is focused on, of those women who don’t opt out, why do they stay, and what is their “secret” to  getting into and staying in senior positions? A lot depends on women’s early socialization and  their relationship with their fathers.  Sharon

    1. Gotham Gal

      that is interesting..

    2. Michelle Rosin

      Sharon your research sounds fascinating, I’d love to read more if you have anything published yet. If not, best of luck! My email is [email protected]. If nothing else, I’d like to hear a bit more about your work. 

      1. Sharon

        Hi there.  Thanks. I will be in touch.  I have my thesis and draft summary.  Happy to discuss.  

  2. Adda Birnir

    Its funny, what this makes me think is that even though feminism has made major inroads in terms of making more traditional “male” positions accessible to women in the corporate (business, etc.) world, it has not made similar inroads into shifting or disrupting (if you will) gender stereotypes in the home.You are right — its ridiculous for a women who can manage a team of 100 to have to call on her husband to talk to a plumber! But what this is says to me is that our culture has been able to successfully re-imagine what a CEO looks like, but not what a Mom or Dad looks like. IE women who were able to take a “Anything they can do, I can do better” in the office, are not translating that into the home.

  3. Song Huang

    Here’s another view. Perhaps the separation of work has been agreed upon by the husband / wife and the plumber just falls squarely into the husband’s realm. This happens at my house all the time.Another scenario is that there is an agreement that certain transactions will not be performed until it has been discussed by both parties. We had a year when both my wife and I lost significant amounts of money “playing” the stock market independently. Now we have an agreement that we have to consult each other before making a trade. It’s simply a set of checks and balances.I think that the balance of work in a household is made manageable by a discrete split of labor. If something comes up that’s clearly my wife’s realm, I’d rather not think about it and defer the decision. It doesn’t mean that I couldn’t make the decision, but it makes it all more manageable. There’s just simply too much going on. It’s the same reason why you don’t micro-manage everyone at work.

    1. Gotham Gal

      Totally agree. Be responsible for your own domain. Makes everyone accountable and I would think happier to take charge

  4. PMarchetti

    I’m in my 30s and run a start-up which makes me a bit strange with my female friends. I often manage the repair calls when we need one at home.  Maybe it was growing up with a Dad who was more of an executive than a handyman, but I don’t expect my husband to know any more than I do about these things.  I wonder, however, if there’s an assumption that men know more about plumbing, electrical, etc even if they don’t. My female friends who have opted out did so because they were tired of working and wanted a break.  The corporate ladder lost it’s luster because of office politics.  They realized they didn’t want to spend their lives working for a company they didn’t like with people they didn’t care for.  They preferred the company of their kids.   

    1. Gotham Gal

      I believe you are right that many women look at corporate life and say no moreWhen they get in that mode perhaps women start to just rely on their partners to just take control of everything except the kidsMaybe that is what happens

  5. Rohan

    Great observation on the plumber thing.Finding more and more that the brain is like any other muscle. The more we use it, the better we become at using it and the fitter it is. And if we don’t..

  6. amy cross

    Dropping out usually has to do with an inflexible work culture that won’t allow you sell a bit less labour during child-bearing years,or seem less motiviated.Re Women Who Opt Out:  What happens is perhaps a loss of confidence, when women step out of the game entirely, they lose sight of what they were/are.  From what I’ve seen of otherwise smart powerful women who drop out, they’re SCARED to try to get back in…even if it means trying to be taken seriously by home contractors. Also don’t forget, the world treats opted out women badly:  my sister used to play game at fancy DC parties, when asked what she did, she’d answer, I’m1. A painter with shows at X museum/gallery — man keeps chatting2. staying home with my kids- man rushes to “get a new drink”

  7. Jennifer McFadden

    I couldn’t agree more. I have been noticing this more and more, which is likely a product of my age (swiftly approaching 40) and where I live (suburban CT). I have several close friends–including one who has an MD from Yale–who have chosen to stay home and raise their children (which is great), but who will clearly face many struggles if they choose to re-enter the workforce. I view it as an epidemic. And, unfortunately, most women won’t truly understand how much power that they have relinquished by jumping completely out of the workforce until they try to reenter.Clearly, there are cultural mores that are driving some of these decisions. It is, in some areas, just expected that women won’t work. For instance, at an event that I attended on Saturday night, my dinner partner actually looked at me at one point in the evening and said, “oh, you actually work? I had no idea.” (clearly, this wasn’t coming from my husband, who was on my other side). I, naturally, found this to be extraordinarily offensive, but just bit my lip (I was a guest at a table and this was another guest of the host). I was shocked.However, I was even more shocked the following morning when I was recalling the conversation to my sister-in-law (who is single and works F/T). She couldn’t understand why I would be offended. I couldn’t understand how she wouldn’t be offended. That type of attitude is so totally ingrained on both sides of the table that it is hard to break. One solution is to help women maintain a base level of skills while they are staying home. Another is to make it super-easy for women to relearn or acquire new skills when they become ready to reenter the workforce. I think that technology is one critical area where women could benefit from access to flexible learning opportunities that would enable them to skill-up and to showcase these skills. Mozilla’s Open Badges initiative is one attempt to standardize and legitimize these types of non-traditional, skills-based learning initiatives. I’m working on a project that would also provide this opportunity for flexible learning ( — although, there’s only a “coming soon” page right now :). I think that there will be other organizations moving forward that will provide additional paths for on ramping or skilling up. That way, even if women do choose to opt-out for a bit, they might find it easier to opt back in when they’re ready.

    1. Gotham Gal

      I hope that technology will change everything…or at least it is beginning you could not be offended is beyond me and yes it is hard to break that mold.

  8. pixiedust8

    All I know is that I handled a renovation, and talked to the contractor because I wanted things to go correctly, but I hate dealing with electricians and plumbers on one-off jobs. Why? I had to call ten electricians for a $500 job, and no one was even interested or acted like it was worth their while. Finally, an electrician who had rewired a friend’s cafe agreed to do it (because of the personal connection). He was SO reluctant and acted like he was doing us a huge favor. My friend who just had a plumber come said she ran into the same deal; like it wasn’t worth their time. I get that this job is minor in the scheme of things, but if there’s one thing I hate, it’s bad customer service. THAT’S why I ask my husband to deal with those guys (who also seem to feel more at ease talking to a guy, because I think they are socially awkward to boot).

    1. Gotham Gal

      there is no doubt that some men would just rather deal with men….stupid.

  9. Emily Merkle

    eek. I thought all this time I was being responsible and honest and – efficient by delegating Money Matters to my partner in crime, equal – and infinitely less prone too impulse online “investing” we’ll say. Hubby. He is better. Does not mean I am brain dead. Not that I was called that 😉 just sayin when you are at risk of disrespecting money ou worked superhard to collect, no biggie – accept your limitations, and be thankful you can trust your In-House CFO. As I said colloquially as an intro to a guy who wants to buy what we offer but is not for sale “I talk and he does the spreadsheets”. Not untrue. Not eloquent. But there it is…

  10. igglesby

    I’m from Korea where the majority of women, many of whom do not work outside the home, completely manage the household finances. That’s the societal norm. So it may be partly a cultural thing…

    1. Gotham Gal

      It’s definitely a cultural thing

  11. Steven

    I suspect that one of the reasons that woman “take a back seat” as you put it is because, too often when getting married women believe that the man will change and they don’t and the men believe that the women will not change and they do.

    1. Emily Merkle

      hmm – not sure that typifies the population GG refers to me thinks – professional accomplished etc – she is in my understanding talking about women who leave the workforce to start a family. not sure i understand the change-thing you reference; new to me.

    2. Gotham Gal

      interesting. not so sure anyone really changes fundamentally but they evolve into what they always were but kept it behind closed doors.

  12. TanyaMonteiro

    nail on the head question. i’d be curious to understand if the men with the strollers in the doctors rooms let their wives deal with the finances once they take on that role?

    1. Emily Merkle

      why does it matter? as long as it gets handled!!

      1. Emily Merkle

        we wimmens me senses – wait now – spend far too much time addressing the very divides we want to transcend. and in opening the door the neadndrethals slither in and puke their ego-insecurries on our dissection – I do not think we shold delete  anyone’s contribution but in a sane we are providing ad space supporting a worldview we want discourage. 

    2. Gotham Gal

      me too. it would have been hilarious if i had gone in an asked.

  13. DR

    It’s worth looking at what happens in other countries. I live in Paris and here it’s very different. Dual career families are the norm and professional women don’t quit their jobs to look after children. There’s good maternity leave benefits, opportunities to work part-time, and subsidised childcare and home help. Yet like us all the professional couples we know both work long hours and still spend lots of time with their kids.In my view there’s also a social tipping point, if all smart professional women combine work and raising kids, it becomes the socially-accepted norm and gets built into company career planning.

    1. Emily Merkle

      Parenting js the most important job. Ever. Does not mean mom or dad have to stay home. does not mean mom is braindead. just do what you duo with authenticity and engagement. the basics are simple but crucial 

      1. Gotham Gal

        definitely the job important job ever….

    2. Gotham Gal

      we are in desperate need of a system with childcare. if that was resolved (tax credits, something that would force employees to create that) then that would absolutely be life changing for women