Meet the Press   |  June 02, 2013

Women as primary breadwinners: From 10.8 to 40.4 percent

A Meet the Press roundtable of experts analyzes a dramatic rise in the role of women as the primary breadwinners in the American family and how that changing role should be sociologically received.

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This content comes from Closed Captioning that was broadcast along with this program.

>> big issue for a lot of families, something that caught our attention this week from the pew research center . look at the percentage of the mothers as the sole or primary breadwinner in the families. back in 1960 if you look at this chart, 10.8%. and now here we are in 2011 . it's at 40.4%. ana, there's a lot of discussion within marriages now that's a bottom line discussion. about who should be working based on who's earning.

>> i think that's where the discussion should be. amongst marriages. there has been an evolution in the american family . you know, i think what we have to be as a society is accepting of what couples decide to do for themselves. there are some people who want to lean in. there are some people who want to lean back and be on a rocking chair drinking a mint julep . whatever works for every couple --

>> enough about your sunday afternoon.

>> when i say in my house i want to be a kept woman , the answer i get back is i want to be a kept man. that's not working. it's not working in my house. but i think it's -- what chairman rogers was just saying i think makes a very important point. he talked about what girls go through in so many other parts of the world to be able to go to school. here we encourage girls and women to reach their potential. when they do, we want to do something about it. i think we, women that work, need to be not judgmental of women who don't. i think men who are mister moms need to be accepted by those who are the alpha male bred wadwinners. i think it's got to be whatever folks. different folks.

>> marsha, we talked about this before around this table. first of all, what is the impact of this as a data point? now we have research backing up what so many of us know, which is that this is a new reality?

>> yeah. it was so interest ing. the day this came out i was doing a roundtable discussion at the middle tennessee girl scout center with 20 affinity group leaders from corporations in tennessee. and one of the things that everybody seemed to agree on was that as we go to an economy where your -- your intellectual property, your thought, all of that is geared -- we're an information economy . women excel in that area. you're going to see more women move forward as breadwinners. but it is up to companies to make certain that there is a level playing field and that women are not shortchanged as they try to get on that ladder to success.

>> it goes beyond up to companies. i would love to see our party have many or of you. we as republicans have got to do a better job.

>> in the political arena, you're exactly right.

>> it will make us a much better party.

>> i say we need to be the great opportunity party.

>> how about pay equity loss to ensure that women are treated fairly in the workplace?

>> i think that more important than that is making sure that women are recognized by those companies. i've always said i wasn't -- i didn't want to be given a job because i was a female. i wanted it because i was the most well qualified person for the job. and making certain that companies are going to move forward in that vein, that is what women want.

>> what about --

>> they don't want the decisions made in washington. they want to be able to have the power and the control and the ability to make those decisions.

>> jonathan, it's also a question of what men want. i was struck, bloomberg business week has this cover story out. working dads want family time, too. talking about lean out. it talks about younger men, certainly true in my life, in my generation, who are coming out of college. if they are. or starting on their work life. and understanding that they want things in their careers. they understand that their partner is going to want those things, too. so they look at responsibility at the home including child rearing as a total partnership.

>> absolutely. you know, there's a line in that story that i think all of us have reflected on. it's an old line. that nobody -- no man in particular on his death bed says, i wish i'd spent more time at the office.

>> right.

>> people from both sexes want that family time. they should get that family time. marissa mayer , head of yahoo! set up a huge debate recently when she said that there should be less flex time , more people coming into the office. when it turned out she had child care for herself there, you had a huge national debate. but both men and women should get that flex time that technology now allows. but what i'm worried about with men is that they're not graduating from college. women now make up more than 25% of college graduates greater than men. women . i'm confusing the statistics there a little bit.

>> i worry --

>> women are dominating --

>> men have -- disproportionate with the impact of the changing economy in terms of job opportunities. but as a parent i must say, i spent an awful lot of time when i was young on my career, traveling. my wife was home. my kids -- i had one sick child. three kids. and the greatest regret of my life is that i didn't apportion more time to my family in those early years. and you can't get that time back. so to the extent people are making those decisions differently now, i think it's a really positive thing.