In skimming today’s Washington Post, I saw a short blurb that says that women’s careers are responsible for one-third of corporate relocations, up from 15 percent in 1993.  The study that it’s based on appears to be only available for a hefty fee, so I don’t know how reliable the data are, but if it’s real, that’s a fascinating trend.

In reading Pamela Stone’s book on Opting Out?, I was struck by how often a choice to be the "trailing spouse" in a relocation was the first (unintentional) step down a path that led to women leaving the workforce.  They assumed that their skills were strong enough that they’d have no trouble finding another job, and that was generally true, but often it wasn’t quite as good a job, or they just didn’t have the leverage in the new job to insist on the flexibility they wanted.  Or the relocation put stress on their family, and they wanted to take time to help the kids adjust…

The big question I’d want to know is what the breakdown of relocations by gender is among married couples — my guess is the 32 percent figure includes relocating singles.  If there’s really a big growth in the number of men willing to be a trailing spouse, that’s a bigger indicator of gender equality than the frequently cited stat that 1/3 of wives earn more than their husbands.

4 Responses to “relocations”

  1. jen Says:

    I know several married women who have relocated for work, with their spouses “trailing”. In many cases the husbands seemed to be taking a page from a traditional female story — they just didn’t think their careers, that they had sacrificed so much for, were really all that rewarding any more. They were willing to put their stuff on the back burner for a while, let the partner take the lead on the career side.
    In a way it reminds me of bike racing. One person leads for a while, the other drafts. Then, when one is tiring and the other is more rested, they switch. It all relies heavily on the marketplace’s willingness to accept non-linear career paths! We’ll see if the men in question are ever able to ramp back up, should they choose to do that.

  2. liz Says:

    We relocated to the Washington DC area from NE PA almost five years ago so I could take a Federal job and my husband was the trailing spouse. We’ve known for some time that my career was the one likely to generate the most stability and income for the family, and his line of work is pretty easily transferable. Before we moved I was home with our kids (then 4 and 8) after finishing an MBA program. I like the analogy of drafting from the previous commenter. I certainly drafted for quite a while and now it’s my husband’s turn!

  3. Becca Says:

    Can you email me? I want to ask you something (more like beg for your help) and I can’t find any contact info on your sidebar…

  4. Jennifer Says:

    We relocated countries twice for my work (to the UK and then back to Australia) although the second time was more because I was homesick than because my new job was better. We had always agreed that it was his turn next, but when he was offered the next exciting job in Washington DC, he decided he was burnt out and became a stay at home dad.
    I suspect if he’d taken it, I would have been the stay at home parent instead.
    But I’ve always thought I was atypical, so I would be surprised by a stat as high as one third.

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