A third of women are in breadwinner role

Almost a third of women in the workplace are earning more than their partners putting them increasingly in the role of breadwinner, a study revealed today.

According to the Women And Work Survey 2010 commissioned by Grazia magazine, almost half of the 2,000 females questioned were either out-earning their partners (30%) or earning as much (19%) and one in 10 already had a house husband.

One possible explanation given by the poll was that the recession hit male employment, shifting the burden of responsibility in relationships.

The survey found women did not wish to leave the world of work, with only 11% wanting to "stop work completely".

Respondents were "realistic" about the downsides of full-time motherhood, with almost half of all full-time mothers admitting they hated "not earning their own money", while 32% missed work itself.

More than two thirds (69%) of mothers said they still 'preferred to keep their hand in at work', with mothers of under-threes stating they 'preferred to work, albeit preferably part-time' (60%), rather than be a 'full-time mum' (40%).

Women with full-time jobs said their employment made them feel 'worthwhile' (50%) and 'confident' (51%).

Despite the emergence of the so called "Mrs Big", the survey identified she was now part of a "cross-over couple" where partners shared the load and were not bound by traditional ideas.

Four out of 10 women thought that in future, the career of whoever was the 'highest earner' would take precedence, regardless of sex (42%), and a further 39% felt mothers and fathers would 'share the work and childcare load equally'.

However, the survey also pinpointed a new battleground emerging between parents and the child-free.

Nine out of 10 women said 'child-free workers resented the flexi-hours and time off mothers can have', while 71% said 'other women were their harshest critics in the workplace' and a third of female directors thought 'mothers were less productive'.

More than half of all working women thought mothers' employment rights might be putting employers off hiring women (53%) and 74% of female directors thought this was now the case.

But rather than backtracking on rights, they would rather give working fathers the same rights as working mothers (52%) to stop any discrimination.

Jane Bruton, editor of Grazia Magazine said: "We're in the middle of a huge social shift. Women are increasingly earning as much or more than their partners and many of these women get a great amount out of their working lives.

"For many of these high earners it makes more sense for their partners to take on a greater domestic role. Of course, there are going to be mixed feelings about this, but it is definitely something that is becoming more accepted."

She added: "The Toxic Sisterhood is souring the workplace for women. Many resent what they see as 'special treatment' of working mothers. It's a depressing picture because if we don't want to exclude a whole generation of women from the workplace, we need to work with each other, not against each other."

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