Women are becoming wealthier (but not wiser)

A marriage is far more likely to last if there is only one major bread-winner in the family

Share

You read it in this newspaper yesterday so it must be true. In 20 years' time, two thirds of Britain's wealth will be in the hands of women, not simply because we live longer and therefore end up inheriting everything including the family house, but also because we're infinitely more employable. So should we women be cheering or wondering where it all went wrong? Because if making more money and having more buying power than men is what we've been aiming for ever since we embraced women's liberation, equal rights, Germaine Greer and the pill, it does seem as though something has gone seriously wrong. Let's begin with the facts.

You read it in this newspaper yesterday so it must be true. In 20 years' time, two thirds of Britain's wealth will be in the hands of women, not simply because we live longer and therefore end up inheriting everything including the family house, but also because we're infinitely more employable. So should we women be cheering or wondering where it all went wrong? Because if making more money and having more buying power than men is what we've been aiming for ever since we embraced women's liberation, equal rights, Germaine Greer and the pill, it does seem as though something has gone seriously wrong. Let's begin with the facts.

Far be it from me to doubt the findings of the Centre for Economic and Business Research, whose tireless minions, doubtless female, have worked all this out. But what makes them think it will take 20 years for us to achieve financial domination? Most of the working women I know now earn far more than their husbands/lovers. No, I did not say partners, because apart from disliking the use of such a dull word to describe the person you share a bed with, it would in this context be confusing.

Many of these high-flying women I'm talking about employ their husbands/lovers but not, I'm afraid, as business partners. Far from it. The one who runs a phenomenally successful recruitment agency in the City has her otherwise unemployed mate in the office two days a week to update the files. The one that designs jewellery employs hers as a sort of in-house courier. He packs up the latest design samples in padded envelopes and either posts them off to clients or delivers them himself. My friend Moira who breeds racehorses in Ireland used to ask her live-in boyfriend, if he was up, to book appointments with the farrier, but ever since he used the wrong diary she's returned to doing it herself, leaving him to make the lunch. If he's up.

It cannot, I'm sure, be a coincidence that pretty much all the high-achieving, high-earning men I know are married to non-working wives, what used to be called Ladies of Leisure.

"Leisure, you must be kidding," said Emily, whose husband, recently knighted, is chairman and chief executive of a multinational corporation. Emily does work; she just doesn't get paid. She sits on more fundraising committees than I have fingers to count with, and spends her waking hours organising venues for charity balls or persuading celebrities to donate their underwear to charity auctions. The operative word here is "married". The majority of the high-achieving women executives I know are not. They either never have been or they are divorced, their husbands having long since moved in with a simple undemanding girl who positively longs to devote her entire day to planning his evening meal and her entire night to conceiving his children.

Despite everything we hear these days about the necessity for both husbands and wife to work to make ends meet, a marriage in my experience is far more likely to last if there is only one major breadwinner in the family. Fifty years ago it was the man. Twenty years on, if you read between the lines of that Centre for Economic and Business Research report, it will be the women.

Why any of this should come as a surprise is a mystery. Women have always been more capable, more practical, more flexible, more given to multi-tasking than men and if all the real jobs like at Rover have gone by the board, leaving only service jobs available, is it any wonder we're going to be the ones in work?

Twenty years ago househusbands were a novelty. They were also extremely hard working: school run, housework, shopping, cooking. But that was when women were sufficiently un-liberated to want old-fashioned things like kids as well as jobs. Now they just want the job and a relationship, preferably live in. Enter a new domestic species, the househusband and his muse.

While their partners are out there clawing at the commercial coal face, they sit at home writing novels, composing music, painting pictures which never get published, played or exhibited, but just give them time and wham they're going to hit the jackpot. A friend's son has just finished his ninth unpublished novel which his Vietnamese banker wife knows will win next year's Booker Prize. In the meantime she's happy to support him and his unrecognised talent. Women may be getting richer but they ain't getting smarter.

React Now

Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
iJobs Job Widget
iJobs General

SThree: Trainee Recruitment Consultant

£20000 - £25000 per annum + uncapped commission, Benefits, OTE £100k: SThree: ...

Guru Careers: Dining Room Head Chef

£32K: Guru Careers: We are seeking a Dining Room Head Chef to work for one of ...

Guru Careers: Pastry Sous Chef / Experienced Pastry Chef

£27K: Guru Careers: We are seeking a Pastry Sous Chef / Experienced Pastry Che...

SThree: Trainee Recruitment Consultant

£20000 - £25000 per annum + competitive: SThree: Are you a recent graduate loo...

Day In a Page

Read Next
The Irish referendum was the first on the issue of same-sex marriage anywhere in the world  

Don't be blinded by the Yes vote: Ireland is still oppressing its LGBT population

Siobhan Fenton
 

Daily catch-up: union bosses mobilise to try to prevent a Labour government

John Rentoul
Abuse - and the hell that came afterwards

Abuse - and the hell that follows

James Rhodes on the extraordinary legal battle to publish his memoir
Why we need a 'tranquility map' of England, according to campaigners

It's oh so quiet!

The case for a 'tranquility map' of England
'Timeless fashion': It may be a paradox, but the industry loves it

'Timeless fashion'

It may be a paradox, but the industry loves it
If the West needs a bridge to the 'moderates' inside Isis, maybe we could have done with Osama bin Laden staying alive after all

Could have done with Osama bin Laden staying alive?

Robert Fisk on the Fountainheads of World Evil in 2011 - and 2015
New exhibition celebrates the evolution of swimwear

Evolution of swimwear

From bathing dresses in the twenties to modern bikinis
Sun, sex and an anthropological study: One British academic's summer of hell in Magaluf

Sun, sex and an anthropological study

One academic’s summer of hell in Magaluf
From Shakespeare to Rising Damp... to Vicious

Frances de la Tour's 50-year triumph

'Rising Damp' brought De la Tour such recognition that she could be forgiven if she'd never been able to move on. But at 70, she continues to flourish - and to beguile
'That Whitsun, I was late getting away...'

Ian McMillan on the Whitsun Weddings

This weekend is Whitsun, and while the festival may no longer resonate, Larkin's best-loved poem, lives on - along with the train journey at the heart of it
Kathryn Williams explores the works and influences of Sylvia Plath in a new light

Songs from the bell jar

Kathryn Williams explores the works and influences of Sylvia Plath
How one man's day in high heels showed him that Cannes must change its 'no flats' policy

One man's day in high heels

...showed him that Cannes must change its 'flats' policy
Is a quiet crusade to reform executive pay bearing fruit?

Is a quiet crusade to reform executive pay bearing fruit?

Dominic Rossi of Fidelity says his pressure on business to control rewards is working. But why aren’t other fund managers helping?
The King David Hotel gives precious work to Palestinians - unless peace talks are on

King David Hotel: Palestinians not included

The King David is special to Jerusalem. Nick Kochan checked in and discovered it has some special arrangements, too
More people moving from Australia to New Zealand than in the other direction for first time in 24 years

End of the Aussie brain drain

More people moving from Australia to New Zealand than in the other direction for first time in 24 years
Meditation is touted as a cure for mental instability but can it actually be bad for you?

Can meditation be bad for you?

Researching a mass murder, Dr Miguel Farias discovered that, far from bringing inner peace, meditation can leave devotees in pieces
Eurovision 2015: Australians will be cheering on their first-ever entrant this Saturday

Australia's first-ever Eurovision entrant

Australia, a nation of kitsch-worshippers, has always loved the Eurovision Song Contest. Maggie Alderson says it'll fit in fine