July 14 (Bloomberg) -- Alexandra Macqueen says she wants family happiness and not a “feminist dream” as she pursues a full-time career while her husband works from home and makes their daughters’ lunches.
Though she doesn’t like to advertise it to family and friends, the projects director at BlueRush Media Group Corp. in Toronto also makes more money than her husband, who works at another media company.
“I never set out to be either an executive or to out-earn my husband; it is how things turned out for us,” says Macqueen, 43. “The whole idea of fluid gender roles is super exciting and liberating.”
Canadian women in growing numbers are making more money than their husbands, after three decades of gains in post- secondary education and professional jobs. About 31 percent of wives made more than their husbands in 2009, up from 12 percent in 1976, according to the most recent data from Statistics Canada.
The shift from a few generations ago, when most women quit work as they married, is sparking other changes from who does the dishes to how companies market products to richer women.
Macqueen’s husband Warren Huska, 48, said he enjoys the chance to be more involved in raising their six- and nine-year old daughters in Canada’s biggest city. The increased acceptance of self-employment and consulting contracts has also helped with juggling career and family, he said.
“Anyone it works out better for, they should go for it,” he says about flipping traditional roles, before he ended the telephone interview to make his daughter’s lunch. On his wife’s career he says: “Who am I to do anything but applaud that?”
Demands in Education
Women in Canada have advanced in prestigious jobs that demand the most education. In 2009, women accounted for 55 percent of medical professionals such as doctors and dentists, according to Statistics Canada.
“The representation of women now, which is so strong in medical schools, is really the manifestation of a lot of investment in the potential of women,” said Ashley Miller, a medical student at the University of Ottawa.
Miller, 24, vice president of advocacy at the Canadian Federation of Medical Students, was in Ottawa lobbying the federal government to ensure a diverse pool of medical students. “Long term, we would want to look at solutions to encourage men to apply to medical school,” she said.
The U.S. has also seen a rise in women taking higher-paying jobs. The share of American working women with a college degree tripled by 2009 from 1970, and women accounted for 51 percent of U.S. management and professional occupations in 2009, according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics.
The U.S. is also one of three nations of 181 studied by Harvard University and McGill University in Montreal that don’t guarantee working mothers leave with compensation.
Canada has found “the right balance” between the U.S. system and expensive European family benefits, said Tracy Redies, president of Coast Capital Savings, the country’s second-largest credit union and the company with the highest percentage of female executives, based on a survey by Catalyst Canada. Redies has four children and also worked for two decades at HSBC Holdings Plc, Europe’s biggest bank.
“To know you can come back to a job and not necessarily have to give up your tenure or position has to be extremely important for the psyche of the parents,” Redies said from Vancouver.
In 2001, Canada increased parental benefits to 35 weeks from 10 weeks, and five years later the share of fathers taking time off had risen to 20 percent from 3 percent, Statistics Canada said in a 2008 paper. In couples where the mother earned the same or more than the father, the father was 2-1/2 times more likely to file for benefits.
Closer to Customers
Redies said her company’s inclusion of women is a business advantage because it helps create new ideas and brings the company closer to its customers.
Women in Canada and the U.S. controlled 33 percent of North America’s wealth in 2009, the highest share in the world, according to a July 2010 report by The Boston Consulting Group. The worldwide average was 27 percent and the lowest share was 11 percent in Africa.
Companies can make money by taking advantage of the growing financial power of women. Investors should consider buying retail stocks including Lululemon Athletica Inc. and Tiffany & Co. to profit from the trend, Bank of America Merrill Lynch said in January.
Not Super Rich
Households where women earn more than their male partners may have less to spend on luxuries because of gender inequality in wages. Canadian women earned an average C$721 ($749) a week in June, or 76 percent of the C$946 made by men, according to Statistics Canada.
“The bulk of them are going to be lower middle class families, not the super rich,” said Alison Konrad, professor of organizational behavior at the University of Western Ontario, and an author of more than 50 articles on gender and diversity.
The additional earnings power hasn’t necessarily freed women of household chores. Women spent an average of four hours and 38 minutes a day on unpaid work last year, about the same as in 1998, Statistics Canada said July 12. For men, the time devoted to unpaid tasks rose 15 minutes over that period, leaving them 73 minutes short of the female average.
“We still see a gender factor whereby men are reluctant to take on a major proportion of responsibility for the home and children, even when their wives earn substantially more than they do,” Konrad said in an interview.
--Editors: David Scanlan, Lisa Kassenaar
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