Even though the role of women in the workplace has been slowly evolving in the last few decades, progress remains incomplete when it comes to equal opportunities almost everywhere around the globe.
Women still earn less than men for the same work, and the eradication of sexism in our work, politics, and culture is nowhere near. More than half of men in politics say that they are still “uncomfortable” with the idea of being governed by an elected female leader.
The antiquated ideas remain powerfully entrenched in society, so it’s truly a fascinating psychological question: Do men hold onto these sexist ideas because of the lack of true equality in our cultural institutions, or the ideas themselves maintain the gap in gender inequality at home and abroad.
A new study from Bath University found that men become “increasingly stressed” if their wives happen to earn more than 40 percent of the household income. To add to that, that stress peaks if husbands find themselves “economically dependent” on their partners.
Yes, husbands stressed out as their wives merely approached economic parity with them.
According to Dr. Joanna Syrda, an economist at the University’s School of Management, the findings suggest that social norms about male breadwinning and the traditional conventions about men earning more than their wives can be actually dangerous for men’s health.
More than 6,000 heterosexuals participated in the study over the course of 15 years, and the study looked at their responses. What it found is that while there’s no empirical evidence to contrast against how nonbinary or homosexual couples compare, the headline is clear, and societal constructs of gender expectations are still having a massive toll on the male psyche. When you put it all together, it can only have a negative impact on the women and other men affected by those unhelpful expectations.
According to the study, marriages where stress surpassed the 40 percent income level had increased rates of cheating and divorce. What it means is that it’s not just men feeling bad about falling behind economically, but those feelings often lead to negative behavioral choices in response.
Dr. Sydra noted that the results are strong enough to point to the persistence of gender identity norms, and to their part in male mental health issues.
Dr. Sydra said that the study found that in couples where the wife was already the higher income earner before marriage, though, there was no increased levels of stress, which implies that some men are comfortable with the idea of having a female romantic partner that earns as much, or more, than them, but those who are eventually outpaced by their partners economically are either uncomfortable with such scenarios or find themselves vulnerable to gender norms about economic dynamics in marriages.