The XX Factor

Passing the Buck

As Hanna writes in the Atlantic , women today are in an unprecedented place of economic power. Females now make up more than half of the workforce and serve as the primary breadwinner in four out of 10 families. In California, the successful campaigns of über-rich businesswomen Carly Fiorina and Meg Whitman illustrate just how much clout money can hold. But despite earning more than ever before, too many women continue to cede financial decisionmaking to their male partners. The trend is troubling, given a divorce rate close to 50 percent, longer life expectancies that make women more likely than their husbands to be widowed, and a rising number of women who never marry. Ninety percent of women will be solely responsible for their finances at some point in their lives and most are not prepared.

Why do so many choose to stay in the pecuniary passenger’s seat? Are men innately better with numbers? During a recent panel at the 92 nd Street Y in New York, experts suggested the opposite. Women, they theorized, might, in fact, be better suited to making good financial decisions: They have less ego invested, are more willing to admit they’re wrong when an investment goes south, and can pass up immediate returns for the promise of long-term payoffs. As one panelist put it, “Making more money can mean losing less money.” Their premise jibes with recent research on the effects of testosterone surges on the market . The solution the panelists suggested was mundane but critical, especially in an era when women have to fend for themselves: basic financial education for girls and women, implemented as a mandatory part of school curricula as early as junior high. Arming young women with fiscal knowledge (and an increasing supply of female financial role models) will encourage self-reliance and help deconstruct the myth of a male “money gene.” As women continue to leave the kitchen, they should be proud to hold on to their dough.

Photograph of woman’s purse by Michael Buckner/Getty Images.