Usually, when a company transfers one of its employees to another area, it's the man of the household who is asked to make the move.
Now there is a new twist to that traditional condition.
Current data indicates that in one of every nine two-career families involved in moving to another city, the transfer is offered to the female and the male becomes the displaced spouse. You can guess where all this might lead by noting that 60% of all working families in the nation today have two incomes, according to the U. S. Bureau of Labor Statistics. The bureau predicts that figure will increase to 75% in five years.
If that holds true, the careers of more wives could determine if the family moves or where it moves. Or you could argue that the wife makes those decisions regardless, couldn't you?
The Chicago-based RELO/Inter-City Relocation Service, the nation's largest referral network of independent real estate brokers, is very much aware and concerned with this evolving change.
It currently is observing its 25th year in this specialty field and realizes that a significant change is developing in the work place.
"This phenomenon is increasing the trauma of a move for two-career families and creating a very real need for those in the real estate profession to expand the range of real estate services they provide," says the network's president, Joanne Langston.
Increasing numbers of the organization's 1,100 members are offering "spouse and job counseling," in addition to the normal activities of relocation--helping the family move, finding rental housing or arranging financing for buying a home in the new city and renting or selling off the house in the old city.
Such matters as day-care centers, schools and community services in the new city--often left to the wife to explore--are becoming areas in which the relocation service is providing far more assistance, she added.
"The traditional role of the real estate community is changing," she said. "It is essential for today's realtor to serve the entire family. Otherwise, the move will not be a happy or successful one for the individuals involved and for the companies which are transferring employes."
Langston also cited an increase in corporate confidence about the economy.
"As a result, we can expect to see renewed efforts by corporations this year to open new plants and offices in new locations and a greater willingness to transfer their mid- and top-level executives," she said.
A recent personal experience may typify this changing role of wives and husbands as spouses.
My wife's employer, a Chicago-based lingerie and women's-wear firm, invited spouses to attend its annual sales meeting, a first for the company.
My time was spent lolling about the hotel, watching sports events on television and attending cocktail parties--but politely turning down invitations from wives to join them in shopping trips.
But I did attend the annual banquet. When the master of ceremonies asked all the first-time guests--the "wives"--to stand "and take a bow," I stood up too!