Role Reversal

18 Jan

Bare Escentuals Chairman Leslie Blodgett with husband Keith and son Trent in their Tiburon (Calif.) home Photograph by Jake Stangel

As more women climb the corporate ladder and earn high-level corporate roles, Bloomberg Businessweek found that more husbands are staying home to raise the kids and keep the household running.

Several husband and wife teams were interviewed for the article “Behind Every Great Woman” featured on January 4, 2012.  It took Leslie Blodgett 18 years to develop and nurture the cosmetics brand, Bare Escentuals, which she sold for $1.7 billion to Shiseido in March 2010.  Her success did not come without some regret.  “She only wishes her 19-year-old son, Trent, were in touch with her as frequently as he is with her husband, Keith.”  Keith made great sacrifices to support his wife’s career, including resigning from his career making television commercials.  Leslie admits that “she’s jealous her husband’s relationship with her son.  Trent, a college sophomore, texts his father almost every day; he often goes a week without texting her.”

It was Keith who took over the household chores including cooking, repairs, finances, and vacation planning so that his wife could work long hours and travel a lot.  Blodgett asserts that “to make it to the top, you need a wife.  If that wife happens to be a husband, and increasingly it is, so be it.”

In 2010 a study by the Pew Research Center determined that some 23 percent of wives now out-earn their husbands.  The earnings trend seems to be slanted toward younger people, specifically it is women 30 and under who on average make more money than their male counterparts in all but three of the largest cities in the U.S.

For every woman that lost her job during the recent recession, three men lost their jobs.  During this same time, the number of men who stay home to care for their children increased to 32 percent in 2010 from 19 percent in 1988.

Ken Gladden jokes that he married above his station.  Ken is married to Dawn Lepore who was named the first female CIO at Charles Schwab in 1994 where Ken was already a vice-president at Schwab in computer systems.  “Dawn’s promotion meant she would become his top boss.”

When the Lepore’s son was born in 1998, Ken become a full-time dad.  Dawn would go on to become the CEO of the Seattle-based drugstore.com.  “She oversaw the sale of drugstore.com to Walgreen last year, for $429 million.  As CEO, she is rarely home before 8 or 9 p.m. and travels several days a week.”  Her children now 9 and 13 continue to rely on Ken for the day to day activities such as carpools to and from sports and music lessons, dinner and homework.

For both families the role reversal has paid off and I am grateful that they opened their doors to us so that we may learn from their domestic arrangement.  The Bloomberg article suggests that “they’re a rare source of inspiration for those who are still figuring it out.”

I shared with you back in November that I too had made a great sacrifice as a wife and mother to continue my career in New York City while residing three states away.  To complicate matters we have a dual earner household, so neither of us devotes 100% of our time to the household.  For now, we are not going to fix what isn’t broken, but we can all learn from what challenges our peers face in climbing the corporate ladder and continue to commend one another and our spouses for the great sacrifices that are made to manage success at home and at work.

2 Responses to “Role Reversal”

  1. Mark March 7, 2012 at 6:12 PM #

    Please accept my compliments on this post. In the last two years I have married, we’ve had a baby, and I’ve gone to part time status at work becuse I’m the primary parent at home. My wife is an attorney. We are expecting in July and it is very likely that I’ll stay home full time then. I thought that your post was very sensible and fair. I can understand why men (especially) might be negative about doing this but from what I can see we are entering new realities where men and women are going to need to adjust expectations. Personally, I’m OK with my wife making more (some day all the) money in the family, and she’s comfortable with being at work and having me spending more time with the kids. It’s a choice we’ve made, and we’re living it.

    • tnsbrooks March 7, 2012 at 6:50 PM #

      Thank you so much for a male point of view! I truly believe that our children thrive when both parents are hands on in the rearing of children. That includes both inside and outside of the household. Kudos to you and your wife for utilizing a non-traditional model for parenting. I do believe that our country’s current economic situation will dictate which parent chooses to stay home with the children or whether both parents will have to work. Thank you for participating in our conversation at “The Second Shift”.

      Tamara N.S. Brooks

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