Women work their way into breadwinning roles

Story by Kassidy Arena.

COLUMBIA — Rebecca Miller and her mother Jean Plumley have run Peggy Jean’s Pies in Columbia for a little over a year and a half.

Miller, a former lawyer, joined her mother baking pies after she realized “this is what I love to do.”

Miller and Plumley remember when a man approached them to sell credit card processing equipment using jargon and obscure statistics. Miller listened to his offer but quickly turned him down.

“He tried to confuse us,” Plumley said, “Rebecca saved us.”

Women in the workforce have become more common. The number of women working in private businesses has increased about 39 percent since 1997, according to a 2014 study by Womenable, a research and consulting firm.

The increase of women in business has influenced the idea of conventional household duties. LuAnn Irby, president of Business Women of Missouri, said when women achieve their educational goals, many longstanding household roles change.

In Irby’s family, two women have essentially switched roles with their husbands. The husbands manage their homes and take care of the small children while the women go to work as a lawyer and a genetic biologist.

“They have their jobs and their husbands assumed the role,” Irby said.

Irby’s family isn’t alone. Nearly 70 percent of women in the workforce have children below the age of 18, according to a 2013 Department of Labor analysis. Miller claimed balancing work and other home duties is difficult.

“It is so hard,” she said. “I hate having to say that.”

Not only is it difficult to evenly distribute home and work duties, it is also a challenge to adjust to the different perceptions of women in the workforce, Miller said.

She shared the difference with her husband, Jason.

“Sometimes people say things to (women) and if (he was) standing here with us, it wouldn’t have happened,” Miller said.

Research shows women not only handle business differently, but they also negotiate differently than their male counterparts.

According to Hannah Riley Bowles, a senior lecturer at Harvard University, studies have shown that based on society’s standards, women sacrifice more of their reputation when negotiating higher pay than men.

Irby adds, “Good negotiating skills are needed to achieve goals.”

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