Nicole Black, a managing director for Wells Fargo, kissed her husband, Drew Skinner, a stay-at-home husband, before leaving for work in Charlotte, N.C. “We’re almost like an opposite ’50s couple,” said Skinner.

Travis Dove • New York Times,

Jim Langley, whose wife is a banker, stays home with their children. When he tells people what he does, “There’s usually a long pause.”

Damon Winter • New York Times,

Marielle Jan de Beur spoke to her husband, Jim Langley, from her Wells Fargo office in New York.

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Stay-at-home dads boost moms' careers

  • New York Times
  • December 7, 2013 - 6:26 PM

– Marielle Jan de Beur often catches the 6:27 a.m. train to Grand Central Terminal, waiting on the Westchester platform with a swarm of dark-suited men, and then walks 10 blocks to a Park Avenue office fronted by the fountain where Audrey Hepburn cavorted in “Breakfast at Tiffany’s,” playing a woman scheming to marry a wealthy man.

But when the elevator lets her off at Wells Fargo, she enters another zone, where the gender dynamic that has long underpinned the financial industry is quietly being challenged. Jan de Beur and some of her colleagues rely on support that growing numbers of women on Wall Street say is allowing 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, and some of the most successful women in the field are among them.

Moving up

When Jan de Beur flew to Hong Kong last spring to persuade Asian investors to re-enter the bond market, her husband took their daughter to try on confirmation dresses. Her colleagues Allison Poliniak and Gina Martin Adams share a running commentary on their husbands’ efforts in the kitchen. Nicole Black recently texted her husband, Drew Skinner, as she headed home after a long day of earnings calls. “You want to hit the gym? Go for it,” he replied, agreeing to spend another hour with their two small sons.

“While I was dating Drew and getting married and having kids, I’ve gone from vice president to director to managing director,” Black said.

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 baby-sitting 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. The couples told of new questions of marital etiquette, like who makes the big financial decisions.

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

But the solution that turns out to work so well for these women is an inaccessible option for many others, since it requires one spouse to give up a career and the other to earn enough money to support the family. Rather than changing the culture of the banks, which promote their policies on flexible hours and work-life balance, these women say that to succeed they must give in to its sometimes brutal terms, from 4:45 a.m. wake-ups onward through days of ceaseless competition.

Along the way, the couples have come to question just what is male behavior and female behavior, noting how quickly their preconceived notions dissolve once they depart from assigned roles. The men echo generations of housewives, voicing concern over a loss of earning power and car pool-induced torpor but also pride in their nurturing roles. The women describe themselves as competitive, tough and proud of every dollar they bring in.

“We’re almost like an opposite ’50s couple,” said Skinner, Nicole Black’s husband. “I’m staying at home, I do the dishes, I do the laundry, I do everything the housewife does. I’m just a dude.”

Not every marriage proceeds as 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.

Role reversals

Rye, N.Y., is not an obvious place to mount a stand against established social roles. The town, on the moneyed coast of Long Island Sound, has long been populated by bankers.

But even Rye has a set of bankers with stay-at-home husbands, among them Jan de Beur, an executive in Wells Fargo’s research department, and her architect-turned-artist husband, Jim Langley.

When they married 13 years ago, some of 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 20 hours a day for an architecture firm that was pressuring him to relocate, and he made less than half of what she did. The solution seemed obvious.

© 2014 Star Tribune