Fear Not, Smart Women; Authors Rebut Career-or-Marriage Theory

The Washington Times (Washington, DC), November 16, 2006 | Go to article overview

Fear Not, Smart Women; Authors Rebut Career-or-Marriage Theory


Byline: Shelley Widhalm, THE WASHINGTON TIMES

Those who say that men don't like women with brains and careers are misleading women, says New York columnist Christine B. Whelan, author of "Why Smart Men Marry Smart Women," published this year.

Ms. Whelan, 29, says she wrote the book, in part, to respond to New York Times columnist Maureen Dowd's claim in her 2005 book "Are Men Necessary?" that success decreases a woman's chance for marriage.

"This isn't good news," Ms. Whelan said about reading the book when she was single and had just finished her doctoral degree in economic and social history. "The social scientist in me knew better than to accept this conventional wisdom without doing research of my own."

Ms. Whelan researched U.S. Census Bureau data, commissioned a national opinion survey and conducted interviews with more than 100 high-achieving men and women in nine cities to gather material for her book. What she found was that high-achieving women women with graduate degrees and/or an income in the top 10 percent of women in their age group married at the same rate as all other women did, but later in life, and that outdated information and misinterpreted statistics had women believing otherwise.

She calls these women SWANS, or Strong Women Achievers, No Spouse

The statistics Ms. Whelan provides in her book show that American women marry by an average age of 30 if they have a graduate degree, the median age for all women to marry is 25, and 90 percent of women marry by 44.

"Ms. Dowd is painting the wrong picture for our generation," Ms. Whelan said, adding that Ms. Dowd was right in saying that prior to the 1980s, it was more difficult for smart, successful women to get married and have children.

But today, as the majority of men she interviewed have said, men find that a woman's career and education make her more attractive as a wife men want an equal, not a subordinate, for a partner.

"This generation is the first generation of men who have seen strong women as role models throughout their entire lives," Ms. Whelan said. "We should give credit to the previous generation for laying the groundwork for this exciting new trend."

The "smart men" that Ms. Whelan refers to should be called "enlightened men," because they are being exposed to smart women at home, in school and at work, said Shaista E. Khilji, assistant professor of human and organizational studies at George Washington University in Northwest.

"More Generation X men are willing to marry smart women than baby boomers," Ms. Khilji said.

Demographic research shows that women who are committed to career and who have an income and a favorable income trajectory have higher marriage rates than women in general, said Steven Martin, assistant professor of sociology at the University of Maryland at College Park.

"Education, intelligence and earning potential, whether it's through the husband or wife, gives the marriage flexibility," said Mr. …

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