Dec 09, 2013

    Stay-home hubby secret to success on Wall St


    MARIELLE Jan de Beur and some of her colleagues rely on support that growing numbers of women on Wall Street say is enabling them to compete with new intensity: a stay-at-home husband.

    In an industry still dominated by men with only a smattering of women in its highest ranks, these bankers make up a small but rapidly expanding group, benefiting from what they call a direct link between their ability to achieve and their husbands' willingness to handle domestic duties.

    The number of women in finance with stay-at-home spouses has climbed nearly tenfold since 1980, according to an analysis of census data.

    When Ms Jan de Beur flew to Hong Kong last spring to persuade Asian investors to re-enter the bond market, her husband Jim Langley took their daughter to try on confirmation dresses. Her colleagues, Ms Allison Poliniak and Ms Gina Martin Adams, share a running commentary on their husbands' efforts in the kitchen.

    These marriages are Wall Street-specific experiments in money, work, family and power. In interviews, dozens of couples provided field notes on their findings.

    Many discovered that even with babysitting and household help, the demands of working in finance made a two-career marriage impossible.

    The arrangement can be socially isolating, they said, leaving both partners out of a child-rearing world still full of "Mommy and Me" classes.

    It is not clear, however, if these couples are leaders in the march towards gender equality or examples of how little is shifting on Wall Street. The banks say they want to hire and retain more women.

    Not every marriage proceeds smoothly. One female banker told colleagues that she recently became irritated with her husband, who works part-time, telling him, "I wish I had a wife."

    "You can get one when I can get one," he replied.

    When they married 13 years ago, some of Ms Jan de Beur's male colleagues scoffed, suggesting that she would become useless in the workplace. Marriage turned out to be one of her better career moves.

    By the time she became pregnant, her husband was working extremely long hours for an architecture firm that was pressuring him to relocate, and he made less than half of what she did. The solution seemed obvious.

    Ten years later, the life they have put together feels comfortable and well ordered: two bright, talkative children, 10 and seven years old; a white clapboard house that feels more cozy than imposing; and time in a sunny third-floor studio for Mr Langley, who keeps books of works by Andrew Wyeth and Winslow Homer on his shelves.

    In interviews, Ms Jan de Beur, driven and precise, praised her husband's nurturing skills. Mr Langley sounded proud, if a bit taken aback by his wife's success. "I'm aware of how lucky I am," he said.

    Still, his wife, along with other women in the same situation, suspects that the arrangement is harder on the men.

    Some of Mr Langley's peers say the chatter at backyard gatherings about bonuses can make them wince.

    When people ask what he does, Mr Langley could say artist - he has just begun trying to sell his works. Other fathers in similar situations say they often tell white lies: They are retired, they are consultants, they work at home.

    Mr Langley generally goes with "stay-at-home dad".

    "That's what I call myself," he said. "I wouldn't say I like it."

    What response does he get?

    "There's usually a long pause," he said.