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Catalyst Study Finds Dual-Career Couples Want Freedom and Control

Would Leave Their Companies If They Don't Get It

A two-career marriage offers couples the benefits of economic independence and career control, according to a Catalyst study released today at a press breakfast in New York City. More than two-thirds (67 percent) of the 802 male and female survey respondents agreed that having a working spouse gave them the freedom to leave their jobs if they weren’t satisfied. And men (56 percent) were almost as likely as women (65 percent) to say that having a working spouse had a positive impact on their careers. Further, most survey respondents were satisfied (women 58%; men 73%) with their ability to balance work and home responsibilities.

Representing 45 percent of the labor force, dual-career couples comprised 60 percent of all marriages in 1996. While 85 percent of respondents cited more income as a benefit of the dual-career marriage, the fact that couples valued highly the option to take career risks—change jobs, start a business, switch to a new industry—was another revealing finding of Two Careers, One Marriage, the Catalyst study. "A significant portion of the U.S. labor force finds economic independence, security, and satisfaction in the family’s second income," states Sheila Wellington, Catalyst president. "More than two-thirds of both wives and husbands reported that they would continue to work with or without the financial need to do so."

The study found little disagreement between genders on most issues. Both women and men want control over their advancement path: almost two-thirds of men and three-quarters of women want the option to customize the pace of their career advancement without harming their chances for eventual success. The most important elements of a customized career path are:
• ability to turn down advancement and be offered it in the future
• ability to move laterally for development
• ability to stay in position for longer period of time
• ability to turn down relocation and be asked in future
• ability to specialize in area of organization

Catalyst also found little difference in what men and women say they need from the workplace to balance work and family: informal flexibility when family needs necessitate—freedom to arrive late, leave early, or work from home—is the option of choice. Also highly desired were cafeteria-style benefits and family leave.

Men are somewhat more likely than women (58 percent vs. 49 percent) to classify the two careers as equal. One major gender difference did emerge: men are much more likely to say their own careers are primary (33 percent) than are women (6 percent). However, even the primary-career spouses say they make accommodations for the others’ careers: being available for emergency home/childcare during work (36 percent) or turning down relocation (13 percent).

Catalyst, the nonprofit research organization that works with business to advance women, pioneered the study of dual-career couples in 1981 with Corporations and Two-Career Families: Directions for the Future. The Catalyst study released today is based on the responses of close to one thousand dual-career earners. For this study, Catalyst conducted in-depth interviews with both members of 25 dual-career couples, comprising a roughly representative distribution in terms of age, geographic location, and presence of children. Yankelovich Partners, Inc. conducted 20-minute telephone surveys of 802 randomly selected members of dual-career marriages.

Philip Morris Companies Inc., the world’s largest producer and marketer of consumer packaged goods, sponsored Two Careers, One Marriage: Making It Work In The Workplace.