Impact of Patriarchy on the Intra-Household Bargaining Power of Women

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Updated: Aug 30, 2023
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A pie chart represents the qualifications of the women surveyed and examines whether respondents would leave their jobs due to family responsibilities or fear of judgement from society and family members. A significant 68% of surveyed women stated they would quit their jobs if they lacked family support for child rearing. They fear societal misinterpretation and family criticism if they fail to devote enough time to their families. These respondents believed that a woman’s foremost priority should be her family. The idea of placing their child in a crèche was not considered acceptable or safe.

Conversely, 32% of respondents stated they would retain their jobs, asserting that careers should hold equal importance to familial responsibilities. Some mentioned their preference for working from home over complete job relinquishment, as job loss could lead to a decline in family status. These women felt comfortable leaving their children in crèche or daycare, albeit convincing elderly family members was often a struggle.

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In addition, 60% of respondents stated they did not want to offend their husbands’ egos by earning higher wages or achieving superior career status, regardless of their advanced education. These women voiced their willingness to accept lower-paying jobs to avoid potential marital discord. They did not object to sacrificing significant career opportunities; indeed, some had made such sacrifices already. One respondent commented, “If women outstrip their husbands in career status, they risk becoming domineering, which is detrimental to the family dynamic. The rise of female domination due to feminism poses more of a threat to society today than male domination.”

Interestingly, 55% of women surveyed did not wish for their husbands to share equally in household chores. According to one respondent, “Men should not be burdened with household chores because they are the breadwinners. Women should strive to avoid stressing their husbands with these tasks.” However, 30% of respondents desired their husbands to assume more household chores, allowing them more time for their careers. When questioned about whether their husbands assisted with domestic work, they were hesitant to respond.

A pie chart addresses respondents’ influence on financial decisions and purchases. The majority, at 65%, revealed their husbands principally decided on pricy household purchases or real estate investments. While these women noted their husbands did solicit their opinions, the final decision inevitably rested with their male counterparts due to their greater financial contributions. As one woman explained, “My husband earns more than me, so he should have the final say. It doesn’t bother me.” These respondents expressed a general lack of expertise in investment and asset acquisition, believing it best for men to make these financial decisions.

Thirty-five percent of the respondents said that decisions are jointly taken so as to benefit the household and its members, especially when it comes to buying expensive items or assets, as they also contribute an equal amount of money. Who has the most say on what to do when a child falls sick? Eighty percent of the respondents said they have the most say on what to do when a child falls sick because they know more about the child than their husbands do, as the mother spends more time with the child. Additionally, the mother tends to have a stronger emotional connection with the child than the father does. When asked whether the norm of only women taking care of the household should change, the women voiced that only women possess the required patience, tolerance, and nurturing abilities. Men, they believed, can’t handle the household. However, twenty percent of the respondents said that it is a joint decision, and their husbands take as much interest in the well-being of the child.

Who has the most say on decisions related to spending on social functions such as the child’s wedding, or their school and college admission? Fifty-seven percent of the respondents said that their partners have the most say on how much to spend on their child’s wedding, school, and college admission, while forty-three percent of the women said that it was a joint decision.

Ninety-five percent of the women said they wouldn’t accept transfer opportunities, even if they were offered higher pay, as they were not comfortable with leaving their family behind and moving to another place. Sixty percent of them said that they were not allowed to accept transfer offers, a decision often influenced by the elder members of the household. Furthermore, eighty percent of the respondents said that decisions regarding their career choices were either taken by their fathers or husbands. As one woman stated, “I wanted to become a scientist, but my father was adamant that I should take up a job which is less stressful, risky, and easier to manage with a family, so I became a teacher.”

It is clear from the primary data collected that patriarchy has limited women’s ability to climb the career ladder, which in turn decreases their bargaining power. The hierarchical dualism and the widely held belief that women can’t handle demanding jobs are among the reasons women don’t reach leadership positions. This type of discrimination, often called gender bias, brings us face to face with the realities of hierarchical dualism.

  • Male, Female
  • Reason, Emotion
  • Hard, Soft
  • Independent, Dependent
  • Separate, Connected
  • etc., etc.

This implies that masculinity reaps higher status, respect, and more power to control, dominate, and decide for the ‘weaker’, lower status group- females. Alarmingly, women themselves seem to believe in this dualism, as evidenced by data regarding decisions related to their children. The mother has the most say on what to do when the child falls sick. They believe that the mother is emotionally connected with the child and family, but when it comes to decisions regarding spending for the child, the husband has the most say. This is because spending decisions, traditionally considered to be rational choices, are associated with men’s presumed rationality and reasonableness. This preconceived notion is one that even women seem to endorse.

Women in lower-paid jobs, despite having strong qualifications, have less bargaining power in terms of financial decisions. This is due to their limited resources compared to their husbands. The data shows that women either settle for a lower-paid job or give up their job entirely because of the patriarchal system, of which women find themselves a part. Furthermore, this negatively impacts their bargaining power. Their ingrained beliefs support the patriarchal system, and they often remain unaware of the control and subordination they experience. As Sheryl Sandberg said, “We stand on the shoulders of the women who came before us, women who had to fight for the rights that we now take for granted”.

One respondent expressed the opinion, “Women should not ask for equal rights as men and women can never be equal. It is like how Microsoft Windows and MacBook Air cannot be compared”. However, this situation is slowly but surely changing as some women have started to realize that unchecked patriarchy is destructive to society. The data indicates that at least a few women place equal importance on their career. They believe that it is necessary to strike a work-life balance, and household decisions should be made jointly.

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“The norm that only women should take care of the family and children is no longer predominant. It’s changing for the better. Today, spouses are more supportive of their wives’ careers. They do take charge of the household work and the children. Most of the household decisions are made jointly nowadays, irrespective of whether the wife is working or not.”

We have seen how patriarchy influences women’s career choices and in turn, affects their income. Women are often willing to sacrifice their jobs for family obligations or to settle for lower-paid positions. These choices make them more financially dependent on their husbands, resulting in decreased bargaining power. Thus, if the marriage fails, the woman has more to lose than her husband. The critical question is: Has education been effective in helping women overcome patriarchy in order to make better career choices and improve their influence on household decisions?

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Impact of Patriarchy on the Intra-Household Bargaining Power of Women. (2021, May 24). Retrieved from