Are women better off marrying for money?

June 5, 2009

Daniela Drake– Daniela Drake, M.D., attended Wellesley College and received an MBA from Stanford University. She, along with Elizabeth Ford, authored the book “Smart Girls Marry Money.” A former McKinsey consultant, she is now a full-time primary care physician. Drake married (for love) and has reaped the consequences. The views expressed are her own. –

I had to pause when I came across a blog out of South Africa that read, “I think a way forward, or backwards some of you might say, is to encourage our smart, savvy and capable daughters to marry for money.” Since I co-authored a book with a similar premise, this sassy assertion definitely grabbed my attention.

The blog’s author Jackie May, an editor for The Times world pages in South Africa, penned these seemingly heretical comments after learning of alarming research by Dr. Caroline Gatrell at Lancaster University in England. Dr. Gatrell found, “women who explicitly choose career over kids are often vilified at work.”


Conventional wisdom says just the opposite: Sacrificing baby-making is often necessary in the calculus of getting ahead at work. Many mid-career women have forsaken motherhood to obtain career goals. Indeed, economist Sylvia Ann Hewlett made news a few years ago when she presented the statistic that 49% of mid-career women who made $100,000 a year or more were childless, compared to only 10% of men.

Yet, despite the sacrifices many women make in order to climb the corporate ladder, women are still woefully under represented in top executive ranks. Eight of the CEO’s on the Fortune 500 were women a couple of years ago. Now, two years later, we’ve got 12. At this rate it will take a little over 100 years for us to represent half of the CEO’s in the Fortune 500, in the year 2128.

Although the number of CEO’s is a lofty benchmark, in general even at the lower reaches, workplace parity is coming at a glacial pace. The reasons are complicated, and it isn’t just sexism. Many have suggested that it has to do with the choices women make to fulfill personal life ambitions.

Even today, many young women don’t foresee that these choices will affect their career success. Hewlett’s more recent national survey found that the typical young woman graduate plans to have a high paying job, take two to three years off to have children and benefit from career flexibility that lets her pop back in to the workplace when the mood strikes.

While Hewlett found the women’s optimism charming, she also noted that this generation follows hot on the high-heels of a generation of women who had similar ideas. By following non-linear career paths, that generation “lost 18…to 37% of their earning power,” and suffered a complete “downsizing of their ambitions.”

But the new graduates aren’t heeding the warning signs of the slightly more senior women’s failures.

These young women are counting on their talents to grant them repeated entrée into a marketplace they were brought up to believe is a meritocracy. The bad old days are behind us, as one co-ed commented to Hewlett, “Back then—when there were dinosaurs—people just did bad stuff to women.”

But is this true, or are people still doing bad stuff to women? If Dr. Caroline Gatrell’s study is right, women who have sacrificed important personal goals are penalized at work. As Gatrell’s study indicates: Childless women are viewed as lacking an “essential humanity” and viewed as unfit to manage others.

Yet at the same time Gatrell assures us that mothers don’t fare much better. Gatrell avers, “Women with children are blamed for combining motherhood with paid work and women with no children are sidelined and discounted because they are not mothers.”

The problem of women in the workplace is so complicated that the answers themselves sound like Orwellian double-speak. Or, have we at long last entered an age when double-speak simply means that both things can be true, that workplace discrimination can take on many forms and that there are no easy answers? But one thing is certain: achieving success in the workplace is like winning a competition. If half the entering team shows up thinking it’s something less than that, then men will still have the home field advantage—and achieving parity may take more than the 100 years estimated by my back-of-the-envelope calculation.

So what will I say if my daughter asks me, “How can I make sure my life is financially secure?”

I would have to pause before I answer. I would have to consider that in all likelihood she won’t live to see true workplace equality. But her life matters now. So I will have my own Orwellian answer for her and offer it with a hefty dose of irony, “Apply yourself at school and at work. And to cover all your bases, marry a man with money.”


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Double speak? Why not call it what it is? Discrimination. The same obfuscatory language is used by politicians and their parties to further the quest for power and not to represent.

Posted by Anubis | Report as abusive

Maybe I missed something, but I don’t understand at all the point of this article – this kind of victim-complex drivel does nothing to help your ’cause’. The entire notion of marrying for money is dispicable – perhaps you should invoke the notion of prostitutes being true feminists in that they are taking control of their bodies as well.
Overturning thousands of years of prejudice and expectations that had been ingrained by religion and institutions cannot happen overnight – it takes generations. Women have to keep fighting the good fight; anything less and women stand to lose all the progress they have made in society and social equality. If you’re expecting instant gratification and equal numbers tomorrow I think you’ll be sorely disappointed… but I suppose everyone else in our society has their hands out these days so why not whine about it.
Also, I just want to add that Obama – a visible minority – won the election in an epic landslide and I feel the result would have been the same had Clinton won the Democratic nomination. As it is, she is the top dimplomat, following the lead of Condaleeza Rice. The more VISIBLE female leaders in politics and business we have the easier it will be for women to break down any barriers left remaining.

Posted by Richard | Report as abusive

It is interesting that you write that you can somehow get back at men by seducing them for their money. Perhaps the only one you hurt is yourself.
You are going to be sad to hear that most men are not rich enough to marry them for their money, and most girls are not pretty enough to ‘buy’ them. Perhaps you should rethink your position? Sorry to hear that your husband is not a big deal.

Posted by Frank Floyd | Report as abusive

This kind of superficial analysis is pointless. Men and women are psychologically different. It’s illegal to explore exactly how men and women are different, so you are doomed to solve the riddle on your own.

I got the biggest laugh from the idea that being a CEO on Fortune 500 is a “lofty benchmark” – what normal woman would want to be CEO?

Posted by erik | Report as abusive

I am uncertain how the title relates to the lack of female representation among executives. However, I disagree with the underlying argument. Women are making progress as managers, upper-managers and executives. More tend to be married and have children further up the chain, but this is also true of men. The main focal point – the barrier if it exists – is in the under-representation of women at the entrepreneurial level – creating the start-up businesses that grow into corporate giants.

So I do not see a lack of opportunity. But I agree that there are some obstacles. Women who have children face more challenges than men because it is just plain hard to raise kids.

Taking the title at face value, I am certain that there are women and men who marry for money. Marrying delivers great economic benefits due to economies of scale. A couple can always accomplish more than a single person. So that is a given. It is not necessarily a monetary exchange. Women who stay home to raise kids add greatly to the wealth of the family. So really the article doesn’t make any sense.

Posted by Don | Report as abusive

Instead of viewing the issue as male vs. female. Think of career focus vs family focused. I am a family focused man. I have not intention or expectation to be a CEO or VP. It is understood that you need to commit all posible time and energy to the company to go to that level. If you’ve ever noticed the shape of an organizational chart it is triangular with few on top and many on the bottom. Most men are on the bottom together with women.

Posted by Andrew | Report as abusive

The existing hierarchy in most companies will use any means to limit competition, be it minorities or women.

The purpose is the same to limit the competition for executive positions. However, one can often find that conservative, christian women often are the most vocal critics of career women.

Posted by Joseph | Report as abusive

Even if one were to agree with you, it is downright unethical to simply come to the conclusion of “marry for money.”
How about realistic life goals? A man does not easily come by money either. Not every man is wealthy and the wealthy men are not always good husbands. Perhaps if your life’s ambitions aren’t to have a solid gold house and a rocket car then you could marry for love, have a job, and be happy! Crazy, right? Money can’t buy happiness. You heard that? Well you have now.
So you can marry for money and sacrifice your soul, or you can deal with a life that is real and possible, because that is what everyone has to do, male or female.

Posted by Jonathan | Report as abusive

If being “financially secure” is someone’s highest goal in life, why shouldn’t they marry for money? The trick is that since they pinned their hopes of being a complete human on an arbitrary, fickle, and narrow quality, they should not be surprised when they must sacrifice other goals to achieve it.

It’s not neccessary to be rich to have a good life, though it helps.

Posted by Fred Bosick | Report as abusive

People that marry for money usually wind up having to earn every penny.

Posted by Ron | Report as abusive

I couldn’t say it better than Richard. It would be really sad if I had to tell my doter that she should hedge her bets by marrying a rich guy.
You’re teaching your kids to be prostitutes with benefits.

Posted by Vince | Report as abusive

This article touch so many points that only a woman could understand. I, a woman, do not see this author as a bigot writer. As a woman in american, the culture itself is designed for women to put on different “hats”. Majority of all women want to be mother’s despite their income bracket. I believe the author of this article is explaining how women can joy “The Best of Both World’s” comfortably. I don’t see anything wrong with a single woman who has/hasn’t achieved the goals of a career look for a mate that has a hefty income. I don’t know too many, if any couples that are married or co-hibitating enjoy looking into each others’ eyes everyday and broke! Dreams are deferred and hope is faded all because of finances. WOMEN marry for money or make your own, and if you are lucky love may follow!

Posted by LadyB | Report as abusive

The following points will support my view:
The productivity of labor has been increasing which means there will be fewer and fewer jobs as we go ahead in the future. Now, do you want extra-competition? I guess, it’s better off if one member of the family goes to work and the other does some meaningful activities. I am not sure how many women here are willing to marry an unemployed man. If they are ready for that, then please come asking for equal rights.
Otherwise, you are just widening the gap between rich and the poor. Hope it makes sense.

Posted by Wish | Report as abusive

Does making money equal success? or even wealth? The old proverb goes “a man is wealthy when he knows that he has enough.” The same applies to a woman.

“Women with children are blamed for combining motherhood with paid work and women with no children are sidelined and discounted because they are not mothers.” Blamed by whom? Do the women in the workplace join in such disparagement?

It’s always good to know there are portfolio careers – those combining many interests in a lateral fashion – that are perfect for us parents that are and have always been an alternative to the vertical obsessions of the corporate world.

Posted by Bob Maloney | Report as abusive

I honestly do agree with a few of the above comments. There seem to be little or no connection betwen the title and the article, but am sure its a kind of or style of writting.
In any case I think there should be a real survey asking women who are mothers, wifes, executives and especially those who are married. Either married because of money , love or other reasons to see what they think of the choice they made.
Its only then can we say that marrying for money or asking the younger generation to marry because of the guy’s cash etc is a better option.
There are many women like my mother who is so happy with her life always counting herself so blessed by God. Haven been blessed with 5 children after which she pursued her Mid-Wifery degree and eventually see almost all her children complete their first degree or well placed in a beutiful setting. Am the only boy with four younger sisters and am successfully married as well as two of my sisters and pursuing our dreams with the last two just completing their first degree.
Life, success or achievement for any woman, I believe beyond every shadow of doubt, should not in anyway consist of how high you climb on the coperate ladder but how fulfilled you are in what you were created to do on this side of creation.
Finally the good book says ” And he said unto them, Take heed, and beware of covetousness: for a man’s life consisteth not in the abundance of the things which he possesseth” Luke 12:15.
Women please strive for anything in this life you desire as long as its righteous and fulfilling. And when you ever decide to marry please please please marry out of LOVE and SELF WORTH . Its still worth it and thats what counts after the HONEY MOON. Anything short of that is doomed to fail, unless you intend not to marry.
Stay blessed, cute, pretty and beautiful. You have been specially created to complete all God intended for man (MAle and Female), whether you believe it or not. Its the truth of life.

“So what will I say if my daughter asks me, “How can I make sure my life is financially secure?”

How about “Don’t spend beyond your means. Don’t fall into the trap of believing that everything that is advertised is a good thing to own. Don’t envy other people’s stuff — it’s all going into the same landfill eventually. Don’t stake your self-worth, that of your husband, or that of your children on money and possessions. Save at least a little bit of every paycheck. And marry someone who has the same attitude towards money.”

Posted by Starbug | Report as abusive

I don’t understand much of this article, starting with the little bio. “Drake, a physician and MBA, married for love and reaped the consequences”. Der? What does that mean? Some coy little hint there, but who knows what it is. She’s got a boatload of money, obviously thinks having more money than you could ever possibly really need is vital in some way, but “reaped the consequences” of marrying for love. Her husband left her, and got alimony maybe? Who knows. Why convey cutesy little hints that don’t really convey anything. This same style of crabwise-moving not-quite-communication informs the entire piece, which succeeds in not ever saying anything at all, just generating a series of faintly whiny hints and ending with the bizarre conclusion that your daughter should marry a rich man just to be on the safe side, in case merely earning a living somehow isn’t enough. Like … having kids, a car, a halfways pleasant job, a happy marriage, is somehow not enough? You need ‘wealth’? A villa in Italy for those fabulous little weekend jetaways? This just seems like a sort of miserable person who doesn’t know where to look for happiness but isn’t restrained in offering advice about it. Luckily, it’s impossible to figure out what she’s saying.

Posted by bob | Report as abusive

It seems to me that marriage or any long-term relationship is supposed to be a partnership. Partners contribute equally in some fashion. If the husband or male partner is contributing earning power (which is generally an appreciating asset), what is the wife contributing in exchange for rights in that earning power. If its simply looks, youth, child-bearing ability, then the deal is not fair or wise for the male. Those female attributes are depreciating assets that are worth less over time. As I would advise investment clients, when dealing with assets that decline in value, it’s probably better to rent (than buy) to sustain the desired level of superficial value.

Posted by BF | Report as abusive

“Eight of the CEO’s on the Fortune 500 were women a couple of years ago. Now, two years later, we’ve got 12. At this rate it will take a little over 100 years for us to represent half of the CEO’s in the Fortune 500, in the year 2128.”

… and by year 2508 women will represent all the CEO’s in the fortune 500. Then the master plan will be complete, muahahaha. Down with the man-pig!

Posted by Andrew | Report as abusive

Many of these comments seem to imply that “marrying for money” somehow means that some girl is trying to get in to a class of society where she doesn’t belong.

Instead consider that “marrying for money” isn’t just snagging some rich guy. Marrying a man who values education, work and social skills, and has the initiative to reach far and support his wife while she also reaches far is really what it means to marry for money. It doesn’t matter then if he *has* money now, only that he has values and abilities to help him achieve financial success and that he values the same for his life partner.

So then, if a good marriage is based not just on love, but also like minded values, a woman marrying for money is marrying right where she belongs.

Posted by melissa | Report as abusive