For the first time in recent history, women are coming out on top professionally and economically compared to their male counterparts. And this seismic gender shift (and current state of the economy) has altered the “romantic market” for women. It has changed the way women date and is causing many women to marry later, if at all.
Women are steadily gaining on and surpassed men in education and employment.
When it comes to education, women are leading the pack. Women today outnumber men in both college and graduate school, earning 60 percent of all Masters and Bachelor degrees awarded in 2010. Increased education levels are having a substantial impact on the demographics of the workforce. There are more women in positions of power than ever before, with women holding 51.4 percent of all management and professional positions.
The economy is shifting balance of the workforce. When the recession hit in 2008, researchers at MIT concluded that of the 7.5 million jobs that were lost, ¾ of them belonged to men. As of 2010, for the first time in US history, women constituted the majority of the workforce. Women’s earnings have steadily increased whereas, those of men have remained steady. These economic conditions have created a population rife with educated, savvy women who are more successful and financially independent than their predecessors. The question is, how have these social and economic realities impacted relationships between men and women?
Economic circumstances have changed dating and marriage.
Point blank: women are no longer seeing marriage as a necessity. In the past, marriage served as an economic and often political contract between two families. Women needed to get married as a means of survival to protect themselves against financial destitution. However, there has been an attitudinal shift in regards to the institution of marriage. Women are waiting much longer to get married and there are now more unmarried women in their 30’s than ever before. Furthermore, the recent explosion of celebrities who are openly embracing adoption and single parenthood reinforce the fact that it’s no longer necessary for women to be married to experience motherhood. However, despite these shifts, the idea of the white wedding is still something that is desired and revered in pop culture. The difference now is that women are choosing to marry for love and emotional fulfillment alone.
More on the affect women’s rise in power has on dating and marriage on the next page…
The search for love is making everything more complicated.
As women have become more independent, they have also become more particular about what they are looking for in a partner. In theory, this should streamline the process. In reality, it’s made dating even more complicated than before. Ella* a successful professional in her mid thirties says: “I have so many female friends who are very successful at their careers yet are still looking for Mr. Right. These are women who, because of their careers are aggressive, used to being in charge and know exactly what they want. However, when you transfer that over to the dating arena, it works against them. They’ll often end up intimidating guys or dating guys who disappoint their expectations. Men want to be in charge a bit too. There has to be a bit of give and take.”
Guys versus men:
Melissa* says that the problem is that men are confused about what is expected of them and many of them are taking a hands-off approach to dating. She illustrates her point by saying: “Guys often won’t open doors for me or do other chivalrous things, mostly because I think they’re not sure whether I want them to.” While this is happening, modern women are swooning over pop culture figures such as Don Draper or “Mr. Big” because they represent a breed of alpha male that is now seemingly an endangered species.
Julie Klausner, comedienne and author of the relationship memoir I Don’t Care about Your Band, says: “I think everyone is just confused.” She adds: “Men are hard to find, good or otherwise, but guys are everywhere now. That’s why women go nuts for Don Draper on Mad Men. If that show was called Mad Guys, it might star Joe Pesci and nobody wants to see that.”
Melissa* concludes by saying: “We’re living in an exciting time. I feel like the idea of masculinity is in the process of being redefined. Only time will tell where we are headed. Hopefully we can find a happy medium.”
For the latest in fashion, beauty and culture, sign up to receive ELLE's daily newsletter.