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Success at work leads to higher divorce rate for women

A successful career paired with a loving marriage is the ultimate dream for many of us. But according to a new study, this goal is harder to achieve for women in business or politics even in the most gender-equal countries in the world. This translates into a much higher rate of divorce for successful women than their male counterparts.

The study from the World Economic Forum was conducted in Sweden, which was one of the earliest adopters of gender equality when using the following metrics:

  • Women’s education surpassed men more than 30 years ago.
  • Their level of participation in the workforce is equal to men over that time.
  • The percentage of women in top political positions, corporate heads and board members is the highest in the world.

Unlike many other countries, the percentage of women with high-level careers who are married with children is equal to that of men. Still, their marriages are more likely to fall apart as they climb to the top of the career ladder for politics or business. This was the case even though the average length of the marriages in the study was 20 years. The study’s main findings include:

  • Men’s rate of divorce is not affected when they are elected to office, while the rate of divorced elected women is double that of the unelected women who ran eight years after the election.
  • While there is no data for women who applied and did not get a job, the rate of women promoted to CEO or board member at companies with 100 or more employees divorce at a much higher rate than unpromoted women. The divorce rate for promoted women is double that of unpromoted women four years after the promotion.

Other findings

The researchers found that promoted women who divorce do not reenter the dating pool or remarry as often as men. It is also worth noting that women are more likely to divorce if there is a more significant age gap where the man is the primary breadwinner, and the women had a secondary job. Spouses who are the same age who both took about the same amount of parental leave had the lowest likelihood of divorce.

Each marriage is unique

The circumstances of each marriage and divorce are individual to the couple. However, the study does highlight interesting trends and some surprising findings concerning women and the marriage dynamic. Unfortunately, couples may come to recognize some of the above challenges only after it is too late. Understanding the issues, nonetheless, may provide insight into the individual as a person, parent and potential spouse if a woman does contemplate dating again.

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