Successful women in finance talk househusbands

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If you're a woman in banking, do you need a man at home? Not necessarily, but if you're in a front office job, or you want to make it to the top, it certainly helps. 

"I'm one of the lucky ones," says a female managing director at an investment bank in London. "I had a stay-at-home husband and it made things much easier. I could do whatever I needed to do at work, travel at very short notice, stay late etc, without ever having to worry about it. I was very fortunate."

She's far from alone. Helena Morrissey, head of the personal investing business at Legal and General, famously had a stay-at-home father and Buddhist priest to help raise their nine children. And Blythe Masters, the former JPMorgan head of commodities and credit derivatives professional, had a self-employed investor who helped with the children as her second husband.  

"My husband stays at home and raises the children," says a female research analyst. "I travel to meet clients, attend conferences and meet with management most weeks. He's there for the family."

Having a stay-at-home husband can be a huge boon when you have a client-facing job. "The banking hours are so long and intense that parents can go for a week (or even weeks) at a time without seeing the children," says one child-free woman on Wall Street. "You also need to keep in mind that women in banks often have to work harder than their male counterparts to get promoted into, and to stay in, senior positions. When they finally get some downtime, they're usually exhausted."

In theory, having a househusband should be good for your earning potential. Male bankers with stay-at- home wives should be able to relate to you, and to appreciate your financial needs. For the same reason, being known as the spouse of a high earning man can have an adverse effect on your compensation as a woman in finance. ("There's still the assumption - often made by senior bankers with wives at home -  that a woman's income is the secondary income," one female banker told us.) In reality, though, many women with househusbands don't discuss their domestic set-up in the office. ("Almost all the senior women I know in finance have househusbands, but they're not going to broadcast that fact," the female banker added.)

Of course, having a man about the house isn't easy. When we asked female finance professionals how they handled it a few years ago, they shared coping strategies. "I have the kind of husband who can step over two things on the stairs and not even notice they're there," said one. "I've learned to pick them up and let it go."

Another said that even with a househusband you need plenty of outside help. "Either you need to learn to live with the fact that someone else is doing something for you - and that they may have different standards, or you will need to pay someone to do it to your own high standards." 

Success may mean lowering your expectations and not expecting too much. "I take most of my leave during the school holidays to look after the children," said one finance professional with a stay-at-home man. "I do all the cooking for the week at the weekends. I do all the bills and the finance and the birthdays and Christmas. He does the washing and the ironing."

One female managing director who had a househusband but who is now divorced and whose children are grown up, says it's not an easy relationship to sustain. "Having a househusband is very useful for any woman with a job - whether you're in finance or not - but there are unintended consequences. It's very hard not to become angry and resentful on both sides."

For this reason, it may be easier to steer clear of the man at home and to share childcare costs with a man at work. "Support is the key factor," says a female VP at Goldman Sachs. "It's about being supported, rather than being about who provides that support - whether it's your partner or paid helpers."

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