Earlier this month, law firm Linklaters revealed that their female employees were paid 39.1% less than their male counterparts. This was followed by Barclays and the Royal Bank of Scotland with gender pay gaps of 48% and 37% respectively. Reading all of these stories made me wonder whether all of these cases share a common denominator and whether this disparity can actually be boiled down to male insecurity. Every man wants to have the biggest biceps in the gym and the most expensive car on the road, but do men also want to have the biggest salary in their household? Are men truly insecure if they are not in ‘power’? To answer this, I thought I’d ask some of Birmingham’s boys – some of the most intelligent and ambitious men in the country – whether they would feel comfortable if their significant other earned more than them.
Jagdeep Grewal, Mathematics (First year)
“This might be a bit of a cheeky answer, but I don’t really mind. At the end of the day, both my wife and her money is coming home! I’m not saying this from a possessive and controlling standpoint, but I am being practical. If she earns a lot and buys an expensive car, I’ll be able to sit in it. If she earns a lot and can afford to go to expensive restaurants, I’ll be joining her. In no way am I being disadvantaged. I can understand that some men may have their ego come in between but I don’t really mind. I look to my parents for inspiration. My dad earns more than my mum and it has made no real difference in my upbringing. Those who are more educated or more skilled get the better paying jobs and if my wife is someone who falls into that category, there will be no one happier than me; I’ll be happy and proud to be married to someone who is successful”.
Prabveer Singh, Business Management (First year)
“No, I’m not insecure about being the main breadwinner in the household as long as everybody is putting in their fair share in terms of work and money, I feel as though a man’s insecurities are shown through his wife; if his wife is very good looking but not very clever it shows he needs to have a model on his arm. Similarly, a man whose wife earns more than him shows that he’s not insecure and his masculinity isn’t affected by it. I can understand why men would feel insecure about woman earning more because society makes them believe that they have to fill that role. However, in the future when women start earning more, society will start changing in accordance with that. Earning money should be a joint thing not a competition”.
Stanley Leadsomme, Law (First year)
“Personally, I would be uncomfortable. Historically, men have always been the breadwinner. This is not by choice – it’s obvious! It is ingrained and should not be subverted. I see my role as the protector and that in turn also encompasses financial responsibilities. I align with this view as it not only inspires me to work harder but it also inspires me to work better. With regards to my partner, I do not mind if the margin is small so long as it is below mine. If I were to have a partner that earned more than me, I would expect it to be transient. It is not a matter of egotistical pursuit but it is a matter of principle”.
Kunal Kapoor, Law (Second year)
I would feel very uncomfortable with my wife earning more than me. I understand that you don’t want to hear this, but I would always have this inferiority complex. At least in today’s age, where equality hasn’t been achieved, I think the inequality is acceptable. I haven’t been in a relationship, so I cannot say how my partner would respond but a man’s job is bringing the money in. I’d happily live in a family with a lower household income but where it all comes from me. I don’t want to ever be a ‘beg’ or a ‘loser’. My dad earns more than my mum. My uncles earn more than my aunties and I hope to be in a position where I earn more than my partner. In fact, you just said that men earn more in the workplace. If that is the case, then maybe my wife shouldn’t work at all (at that level). Why make her put an equal effort in when she’s going to get less anyway. Save her the struggle.
As any historian or sociologist will tell you that, in the years gone by, the likelihood of a woman earning more than her husband was tiny. Although not confined to the home, a woman was never the ‘breadwinner’. Fast forward to 2018 and not only are more women out-earning their partners – 25% according to insurance company LV – but most male mind-sets have changed too. As we can see, most of Birmingham’s boys are comfortable, confident, and secure in their partners earning more – an outcome that is refreshing, reassuring, and one that we should all be extremely proud of. Some of them, however, still hold rather archaic views. These views are not just intriguing because of what is being said, but because they reflect the views of those who are about to enter the graduate workforce. 10, 20, or 30 years down the line, it will be these people who will be in managerial positions deciding how much to pay their employees. Frightening. We’d love to hear your responses to these rather discriminatory views; let us know by tweeting us @RedbrickLife!