Earning more money than her boyfriend proved to be dangerous for Thembisa*, but it didn’t start out that way. Their relationship bloomed from a serendipitous meeting on a bus, but four years later, Bongi* was still taking the bus while Thembisa owned a car and paid for all their household expenses.
Then she bought him a laptop for his birthday. This generosity was the catalyst for all of Bongi’s pent-up frustration and most importantly, his feelings of disempowerment: it boiled into a physical fight so violent she ended up in hospital for a week.
“Often, men can experience feelings of shame and inadequacy at not feeling that they are providing,” explains Clinical Psychologist Richard Middleton. “A central aspect of masculine identity, for many men, is that of being a provider.”
Money has, and always will be, an issue in relationships: because money isn’t about the money – money is about power. Money is about freedom. Money is about choice. And money becomes a symbol of so much more than its Rand value when it’s in a relationship.
As financial advisor Lisa Linfield says: “Money isn’t one dimensional.” This becomes even clearer when there is an income inequality in a relationship, and, as Linfield explains, the money becomes a way to “express the state of the relationship”. Existing issues and dynamics will get played out in the finances. Clinical Psychologist Annette du Toit puts it another way: “The money becomes a metaphor.”
Now, Thembisa’s story may not be the norm, but the relationship wage gap is not a new phenomenon. What’s new about it is in 2017, women are increasingly out-earning their partners and becoming the main breadwinners.
Though this works for many couples, in patriarchal South Africa, both women and men struggle with a power dynamic that is against both their heritage and their expectations. Alison*, a managing director, is now, after a series of unplanned events, out-earning her husband.
She explains: “My husband and I are both Afrikaans – a traditionally patriotic culture, and the cherry on top is that he is a farmer. Although we are both modern, liberal and progressive thinkers, there are certain ingrained cultural quirks which are hard to shake.”
One of these was directly linked to decision-making and the role of head of the household. As she told me, “I wouldn’t say it caused trouble in our relationship – but it blurred the lines of authority. My husband unconsciously started leaving all important financial decisions to me – a burden I felt too heavy to carry along with being the breadwinner. He on the other hand felt that the breadwinner had the ‘luxury’ of making such decisions. So although I am the breadwinner, I wanted all traditional roles to remain… something he felt he could not do as it was ‘my money’.”
Money, in fact, is more often than not a key indicator of a relationship’s success. “One of the best predictors for divorce is financial disagreements,” says Linfield, quoting a university study by Jeffrey Dew that “those who argue about money once a week are over 30% more likely to get divorced than those who disagree only once or twice.”
Annette says, “The dynamic isn’t any different to when women are financially disempowered in a relationship. The difference is that it’s not a social norm for men to be perceived as disempowered.” Though the wage gap is still a very real phenomenon in the South African workplace, more and more women are climbing the career ladder and secretly changing a long-standing dynamic.
Why secretly? I can only guess. What I know for certain is that of the seven sources I interviewed for first person stories, whether in good or bad relationships, cutting across the race, gender and career spectrum nationwide, all except one asked to be anonymous. My best guess is it’s probably because, as one source said, “I don’t want to embarrass my husband.”
Embarrassment is a very real fear. Franco Pellegrini, a Peruvian Italian sound engineer and stay-at-home-dad, has found the social shaming associated with having his wife as the main breadwinner an unfortunate phenomenon in South Africa.
“For men, it’s not really common,” he says, “There’s a lot of judgement, and when I say I look after the kids, a lot of men will say ‘my wife does that’.”
It’s commonplace at social gatherings for men to make snide off-hand comments that imply being the nurturer is an easy role; comments, Pellegrini says, that often infuriate their wives doing the exact same thing. And as a ‘stay-at-home’ dad, Pellegrini finds it frustrating how society and infrastructure are heavily skewed towards women as the nurturers.
Most classes are called something along the lines of ‘Moms and Tots’, few malls have gender-neutral or male baby-changing rooms, and a lot of people assume Pellegrini, as a lone male, has an illicit agenda with their children. One thing that helps with this is his group of like-minded, stay-at-home dads who meet once a week to bond, commiserate, and drink wine. Society aside, Pellegrini’s relationship with his wife works financially. His wife’s income is seen as ‘theirs’ and his contributions are valued as highly as hers – even if they don’t match Rand for Rand.
Another successful relationship is Ayanda* and her husband. Ayanda finds being the main provider extremely rewarding, and loves that her husband encourages her ambition. “Practically, at the end of the day, it’s about the long-term view,” she says, “He is my best friend and we support each other, each doing what we do best for both of us.”
What both relationships are doing right is seeing the money as something practical, not linked to worth, and aligning their long-term goals with what each can contribute to the relationship. As Linfield says: “Secret-keeping, and looking at money as ‘yours, mine and ours’ can cause a lot of trouble in a relationship.”
Managing a relationship wage gap can be challenging, with a wide range of factors affecting the relationship; the main trick though is to respect and value each other.
HOW TO MANAGE YOUR MONEY (IN A RELATIONSHIP WAGE GAP)
- MAKE A MENTAL SHIFT: Don’t think “I am earning R50,000, he is earning R20,000”, rather think “We are earning R70,000” and plan how to use that money for your shared future.
- MONEY EXPRESSES HOW YOU THINK: As financial advisor Lisa Linfield says, money becomes an expression of your personality. Are you a saver or an adventurer? Understanding you and your partner’s financial needs will help immensely.
- PAY PROPORTIONALLY TO INCOME: Happy Ngale, a financial wellbeing consultant at Alexander Forbes, has this handy formula to help you work it out:Income 1 (higher income) + Income 2 = Total income
Income 1/total income x 100 = % split
g. R50,000 + R20,000 = R70,000
R50,000/R70,000 x 100 = 71%.
Therefore Income 1 would pay for 71% of the joint bills meaning Income 2 pays 29% towards the joint bill.This balances the payments and creates a fair share towards the joint bills.
- DO YOUR FINANCIAL PLANNING TOGETHER: Transparency really is your best friend here! Retiring together one day is your long-term financial goal, so make sure your sights are aligned to the same end result.
- VALUE WHAT YOUR PARTNER BRINGS: As Annette says, this might not be money! Looking after the children, managing the household, and other tasks all are as important as a financial contribution.
- IF IT’S NOT WORKING, REEVALUATE: If you do feel the financial situation isn’t working – if the breadwinner is feeling too much pressure, or if you simply don’t have enough money, or if one partner is unhappy, it’s perfectly OK to have a look again at your financial agreement and come to one that makes both partners happy. This might mean one of you going back to work, or one of you working less, advises Kerri Lutz, Wealth Coach and Financial Advisor for Women.
- CHOOSE A CARETAKER: As John Manyike, Head of Financial Education at Old Mutual, explains: “Having a joint bank account is a convenient way to manage day-to-day spending and saving, but it can be problematic if one of you is not financially disciplined. Couples must identify who the financially responsible one is and agree on who is best-suited to taking care of the household budget.”
- BE TRANSPARENT: Don’t keep financial secrets. Know what’s happening with both of you so you can plan accordingly, for your joint future.
(*not their real names)
- Written by Samantha Steele
‘With Covid-19, See How Resilient Nature Is’
Adjany da Silva Freitas Costa, the youngest minister in the Angolan cabinet, is an intrepid adventurer, biologist and conservationist committed to saving the world’s last wild places.
Adjany da Silva Freitas Costa is not your ordinary minister. At 30 years old, the Luanda local is currently the youngest minister to serve in the Angolan cabinet and an intrepid adventurer with an inspiring hands-on background.
In 2015, Costa was one of the braves who undertook a four-month journey for the National Geographic Okavango Wilderness Project. The captivating trip documentary, Into the Okavango, follows the courageous crew of scientists (including Costa) who travel the riverine route. The journey began in the highlands of Angola and had the team meandering 2,400km by mokoro (a traditional canoe), camping wild along the Okavango River until they reached the town of Maun in Botswana. The trip illustrated how the Okavango Delta relies on Angolan rains, but also highlighted the costs of Angola’s lengthy war to its landscapes.
In April this year, Costa assumed the government position as Minister of Culture, Tourism and Environment. “It is not exactly unusual for a woman to join the Angolan government,” says Costa, “but it’s not exactly common either.” Currently, there are seven women ministers in the Angolan cabinet, creating a gender split of roughly 35% female.
“We bring a lot of benefit for the simple fact that we can bring inclusion to the politics forged in society,” says Costa. “I think that every single one of us brings a different perspective to the whole context of politics. Currently, I am the youngest minister to serve in the Angolan cabinet. It makes me feel like there is hope for youth and hope for the future. I do think we bring an innovative way of thinking and innovative vision into the current system that is very beneficial to change and to the improvement of the system here in Angola.”
The National Geographic Okavango Wilderness Project expedition revealed new species (to date, ongoing field trips have resulted in the discovery of 26 species new to science, more than 75 species potentially new to science, and more than 130 species previously unknown in Angola). It also embedded in Costa a life-long commitment to saving the world’s last wild places. It short, it changed her life.
“It changed the whole perception that I had of everything, personally, professionally, academically,” Costa admits. “The trip helped me see the world and my participation in the world, in a very different way. In a very concrete way and I don’t think I would be sitting here answering these questions if I hadn’t participated. I have never, ever in my entire life “envisioned myself as a minister. I don’t think I’ve ever envisioned myself being part of politics, but there is a writer who once said, ‘You don’t choose politics. Politics chooses you’, and that’s exactly what happened. I see it as an opportunity to bring change from the outside. I am someone that has always applied the policy that’s created by decision-makers. I think it’s an opportunity to bring that applicability into the system and make it much more action-focused – and more than a piece of paper.”
In 2017, Costa was named an emerging explorer at National Geographic, and in 2019, she became the Young Champion of the Earth for Africa in the United Nations Environment Program. Before taking a seat in the government, Costa worked as an ethno-conservationist to pioneer projects that developed working conservation models for communities living alongside crucial wildlife hubs.
“Being a biologist is also a great advantage for this position. I believe that policies should be made to be applied and not archived,” Costa says. Another benefit for her position is that she knows all about being on the ground. “I started my journey in conservation, looking specifically at biodiversity and working directly with the specimens. I started with turtles, and all we did was patrol the beaches and look after the nests – and that was it. There was no engagement. For a long time, I always thought there was a separation between humans and wildlife – and that the separation was needed for us to protect wildlife. Working for the past five years in the East of Angola, I realized that it is the complete opposite. The gap that we’ve created with nature is what causes us to destroy nature in the first place.”
Costa has a masters degree in Biology and a PhD in International Wildlife Conservation Practices from Oxford University. In the wake of Covid-19, we are just beginning to see the harsh effects of tourism loss to wilderness protection.
“Rural communities are the true protectors of the environment around them,” Costa says. “Ethno-conservation is the art, and it is our privilege of being able to work with communities for the sake of nature. Not just for the conservation of biodiversity, but also the improvement of their own lives.”
The drastic decline in visitor numbers in the wilds of Kenya, Zimbabwe and across the African continent highlights the importance of such a conservation model more than ever as decades of conservation successes hunker in jeopardy due to tourism collapse.
“Our main target for tourism in Angola is internal tourism. We have 29 million people that don’t know most of the country,” says Costa. “We have a lot of potential though; whether it’s landscape, culture, adventure or eco-tourism, it’s possible in Angola. We are very much focused on creating the services and infrastructure for internal tourism before we look outside of our borders.
“In terms of tourism, Angola’s biggest asset is definitely diversity,” Costa enthuses. “Not just naturally and not just culturally. The conditions that you find from one place to the other are so unique that you can go, within Angola, to 10 different places that feel like completely different countries. We literally go from a tropical forest, all the way to a desert in one row. Angola has partnered with different collaborators to assure the protection of these spaces. Whatever happens in Iona National Park is completely different from what happens in the Luengue-Luiana National Park (which feeds the Okavango Basin), and that’s completely different from what happens in the Quiçama National Park.”
She also believes that protecting such wild spaces enables wildlife to flourish.
“Nature has this incredible thing that is, to me, one of the most fantastic traits. It is resilient. Even now, with this Covid-19 situation, we have seen how resilient nature is. Wilderness itself can resuscitate, and wilderness can find a future – if we just know how to protect it.”
When asked about inspiration and the future, Costa cites other intrepid conservationists, Jane Goodall and Sylvia Earle as strong influences.
“If I have to send a message to young women around the world, what would it be? Do it. That’s something that I always say. Do it. Whatever it is that we set our minds to do. We can most definitely, definitely do it. We can achieve impossible things. I’m a minister today. That says a lot!”
– By Melanie van Zyl
Naomi Osaka Is The Highest-Paid Athlete Ever, Topping Serena Williams
The 22-year-old Japanese tennis player racked up $37 million in earnings in the past year, more than any other female athlete in history.
Naomi Osaka was only a year old when Serena Williams won her first grand slam title in 1999. Nineteen years later, Osaka beat Williams at the U.S. Open finals to win her first grand slam. It was one of the most controversial matches in Open history involving three code violations called against Williams. Now the 22-year-old ace has beaten her legendary rival once again, this time for bragging rights as the highest-paid female athlete in the world.
Osaka earned $37.4 million the last 12 months from prize money and endorsements, $1.4 million more than Serena, setting an all-time earnings record for any female athlete in a single year; Maria Sharapova held the prior record with $29.7 million in 2015.
Osaka ranks No. 29 among the 100 highest-paid athletes, while Williams is No. 33. It’s the first time since 2016 that two women have made the ranks of the top 100 highest paid athletes, with the full 2020 list set for release next week.
“To those outside the tennis world, Osaka is a relatively fresh face with a great back story,” says David Carter, a sports business professor at USC Marshall School of Business. “Combine that with being youthful and bicultural, two attributes that help her resonate with younger, global audiences, and the result is the emergence of a global sports marketing icon.”
The ascension puts an end to a decisive winning streak for Williams, who has been the world’s highest-paid female athlete each of the past four years, with annual pre-tax income ranging from $18 million to $29 million. The 23-time grand slam champion has collected almost $300 million during her career from endorsers who have swarmed the 38-year-old star.
Osaka’s rise to the head of the charts was a perfect convergence of several factors. She first proved herself on the court, with back-to-back grand slam titles at the 2018 U.S. Open and 2019 Australian Open. That plus her heritage—a Japanese mother and Haitian-American father—helped separate her from the pack; at only 20 when she won her Open title, she had a cool factor and engaging personality.
Osaka’s roots are crucial to her endorsement stardom. She was born in Japan. When she was three, she and her family moved to the U.S., settling on Long Island and then heading to Florida; older sister, Mari, also plays on the pro circuit.
She turned pro in 2014, a month before her 16th birthday. She cracked the WTA’s top 40 in 2016 and won her first title in March 2018 at Indian Wells. In the 12 months that followed, she became the first Japanese player to win a slam, and first Asian tennis player ever to be ranked No. 1 in the world.
Osaka maintains dual citizenship but made the wise choice to represent Japan ahead of the since-postponed Tokyo 2020 Summer Olympics. The decision made her an even hotter commodity for Olympic sponsors, like Procter & Gamble, All Nippon Airways and Nissin, who signed endorsement deals with Osaka to use her around marketing for the Games, now scheduled for summer 2021. She is expected to be one of the faces of the Olympics that had triggered unprecedented levels of excitement among the Japanese public before the coronavirus.
A Decade Of Highest-Paid Female Athletes
Tennis has been a winning strategy for highest-paid female athletes. Before Naomi Osaka arrived on the scene, Maria Sharapova and Serena Williams were the top earning women of the decade, holding the top spot for five and four years, respectively.
The last top-earning female athlete, outside of Williams and Sharapova, was Serena’s sister Venus in 2003. Tennis remains the only route for women to rank among the top-paid male sports stars. Sharapova, Li Na, Serena, and now Osaka are the only females to rank among the 100 top earners in sports since 2012. The highest-paid female athlete every year since Forbes started tracking the data in 1990 has been a tennis player, with Steffi Graf and Martina Hingis the top earners most of the 1990s.
Tennis players are walking billboards in the only major global sport where men and women have some level of equality in their paychecks, thanks to similarly sized audiences tuning in to watch tournaments. Prize money at the four grand slam events has been even since 2007, although men still earn more at lower level tourneys.
The demographics of the tennis fan make sponsoring top players attractive for brands. At the U.S. Open last year, attendance skewed in favor of women by a ratio of 56 to 44, a rarity at big time sporting events; 78% held at least a bachelor’s degree versus 35% for the U.S. overall; the average household income was $216,000. This is a group with significant disposable income, ready to buy apparel, sporting equipment, cars, watches and financial services.
Steering Osaka’s brand is tennis powerhouse agency IMG, which leaned on its history with breakout female tennis stars when Osaka started blowing up, having represented Maria Sharapova and Li. Stuart Duguid is her lead agent at IMG.
The apparel deal is almost always the biggest endorsement for tennis stars, and Osaka’s timing was perfect there as well, as she hit the open market just after winning two grand slams. It triggered a free agency bidding war between Nike and Adidas—her previous apparel sponsor. The Swoosh emerged on top and paid her more than $10 million last year in an agreement that runs through 2025.
Osaka secured an extremely rare but lucrative provision in her Nike contract. The sportswear giant always requires its tennis players to be clad in Nike gear from head to toe, without any other logos on their shirts or hats. This is lucrative real estate for marketers, as cameras focus closely on the player as they serve or get set to return serve.
Nike never made an exemption for Serena, Sharapova, John McEnroe, Andre Agassi or any of the other marketable tennis stars in their stable. The only exception until last year was China’s Li Na; Osaka was the second, thanks to massive leverage with Sharapova headed for retirement and Williams turning 39 this year. Her “patch” deals are with All Nippon Airways, MasterCard and ramen noodle maker Nissin Foods.
Nike plans to launch an Osaka streetwear line in Japan in the fourth quarter, featuring hoodies, leggings and shirts, as well as a new collection each season. There will not be any tennis apparel.
Osaka now has 15 endorsement partners, including global brands like Nissan Motor, Shiseido and Yonex, whose tennis racquets she has used for more than a decade; almost all are worth seven-figures annually.
Sharapova was 17 when she defeated Williams to win the 2004 Wimbledon crown. IMG quickly mobilized to lock up lucrative long-term deals for the Russian, who ranked as the highest-paid female athlete for 11 years before injuries and a suspension for taking a banned substance dented her earnings.
IMG got an education on marketing a female Asian tennis star with China’s Li. She was the first grand slam singles champion from Asia, man or woman, when she captured the 2011 French Open at age 29. IMG quickly secured seven multi-million deals, pushing her off-court earnings from $2 million to $20 million. She challenged Sharapova as the sport’s top earner until her retirement in 2014.
IMG used its expertise in Japan with Kei Nishikori, who has never won a grand slam but is the most successful Japanese male player ever, resulting in an endorsement portfolio worth $30 million a year.
Sharapova, Li and Nishikori paved the way for Osaka’s marketing breakthrough. “We were fortunate to have a very sophisticated office in Tokyo that already had the experience with Kei,” IMG’s head of tennis Max Eisenbud told Forbes last year. “The relationships in that region are important.”
With plenty of endorsement cash, Osaka partnered with several brands last year, with significant equity components, including emerging sports drink BodyArmor and Hyperice, which makes recovery and movement products.
BodyArmor marketing exec Mike Fedele says Osaka was one of inspirations for its “Only You” ad campaign launched this week. “Naomi is fiercely dedicated to perfecting her game on the court and a huge part of that is what she does off the court with her training, nutrition and hydration,”he says.
“I’m really interested in seeing a young business grow and adding value to that process,” Osaka told Forbes last year. “I tasked my team with finding brands that align with my personality and my interests.”
Brands are lining up to get into the Naomi Osaka business.
‘It’s The People-To-People Connections That Make A Lasting Impact’
Sahle-Work Zewde, Ethiopia’s first female president and the only serving female head of state in Africa, tells FORBES AFRICA why more leaders should use soft power to achieve shared growth.
Sahle-Work Zewde has her name etched in political history. A veteran public official having served as an ambassador to Senegal, Djibouti, and France between 1989 and 2006, before her presidency, Zewde was Special Representative to the African Union and Head of the United Nations Office to the African Union. In an email interview, Zwede, who was also on FORBES AFRICA’s list of ‘Africa’s 50 Most Powerful Women’ for its March issue, dwells on why the ‘Africa we want’ will only become a reality with the positive and significant transformation of women’s lives:
In your position, how are you moving to achieve more gender proportionality in Ethiopian politics?
I see my being in this position as both an opportunity and responsibility. I know that it is political will that has opened the way for me and many other women to assume positions of power and influence in the Presidency and the ministerial cabinet in Ethiopia. This stride is a major step forward for Ethiopia as a nation and also for the continent. However, things can regress and go back to how they were unless we take strategic and intentional action to build on the momentum. For me, the way forward is using my platform to empower and embolden the women coming after me. This can occur in two ways. The first is working on empowering the women who are in the workforce and especially in positions of leadership to reach their full potential and engage in activities that provide opportunities for the next generation of women leaders. The second is helping female students at both the university and high school levels to ensure that we have a steady stream of competent, educated and confident women ready to take over. As women in power, we have a responsibility to all the women that will come after us to ensure that their trajectory is easier than ours.
How must Africa change in this regard?
Although more progress has been achieved in terms of delivering on our promise to provide support towards women’s education, health services, access to finance and political participation in a growing number of African countries, much more needs to be done. As a continent, we must go beyond the rhetoric and provide tangible solutions for African women in all sectors. The ‘Africa we want’ will only become a reality with the positive and significant transformation of women’s lives and the extent of their participation in all walks of life.
What do the words ‘power’ and ‘soft power’ mean to you?
There is a clear distinction between ‘power’ and ‘soft power’. While the first uses any means to achieve a goal, the latter relies on influence through communication, understanding and healthy discourse. Soft power does not resort to violence or coercive methods to achieve the results sought. Serving as a diplomat for a quarter century and at the United Nations for over a decade, I became very knowledgeable of the utility of soft power to reach consensus and effectuate change.
For me, the idea of soft power is what we need to promote as a continent. For decades, our continent has been ravaged by civil war, ethnic conflict and infighting.
However, Africa is now enjoying more economic growth than it has ever had. What we need now is more leaders to exercise soft power, finding what unites us to achieve a vision of shared growth. Traditional governance sees the government as the sole owner and executer of international relations. However, with our increasingly globalized world, it’s the people-to-people connections that make a true and lasting impact and bond. Leaders of today have to detach from traditional views and adopt the more global perspective the times require.
– Interviewed by Renuka Methil
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