Back when Fortune coined the term “trophy wife” in 1989, the phrase was used to describe the young, beautiful and accomplished second-wives of powerful men. In 2002, when Fortune used the phrase”trophy husband,” it was meant as ironic wordplay. The powerful women’s trophy in the early 00s was a loyal and loving helpmate, standing behind the great woman, cooking a killer beef wellington, driving carpools and coaching soccer.
Many of these early trophy husbands were retirees: see the husbands of Carly Fiorina, Xerox Chair and CEO Ursula Burns, earlier Xerox chair and CEO Anne Mulcahy, and former JPMorgan Chase CFO Dina Dublon. They put their careers on hold to nurture their wives’ ambitions and tend to the kids.
“These guys may be every working woman’s definition of trophy,” Fortune wrote in 2002.
Now, in 2015, maybe not so much. Stay-at-home dads are every bit as treasured, but not mind-blowing anymore. Couples shift bread-winning roles and arrangements around. Dads may not make up the majority at the playground, but their presence there doesn’t raise eyebrows, either.
Today these accomplished, wealthy, ambitious “alpha” women have attractive, important men in their own right, who don’t mind being eclipsed on occasion. Powerful women in 2015 can command what men did, when Fortune first coined the term ‘trophy wife’ in 1989 — an attractive, accomplished mate still willing to take a backseat to their companion’s glorious achievements. He’s a multi-dimensional status symbol in a high-powered relationship between equals.
As society becomes “more gender-neutral, an alpha woman is going to be highly desired and sought after as a partner,” says Sonya Rhodes, PhD, a couples therapist in New York and author, with Susan Schneider, of The Alpha Woman Meets Her Match: How Today’s Strong Women Can Find Love and Happiness Without Settling (HarperCollins, 2014). “Women always wanted sexy men who are accomplished. The cultural transformation is that the men have changed: Some alpha men admire and support successful women. Successful, sexy men can handle equally sexy, successful women.”
That’s not to say downshifting spouses, who do the caregiving, work from home or part-time or not at all, aren’t as important as ever for some women’s leadership. Dawn Lepore, a four-time Fortune MPW and former Charles Schwab CIO, relied on one. Other business leaders reported to have partners who were at one time stay-at-homers, though some may bristle at discussing it, include ex-WellPoint chief Angela Braly and IBM CEO and Chair Ginni Rometty.
What’s certain, says therapist and author Rhodes: “The cultural winds are shifting and the ideal relationship is a partnership.”
Here are five trophy husbands.
The marriage: Amal Alamuddin, a Lebanese-British, Oxford- and NYU-trained international human rights lawyer, is reported to be fluent in three languages. She and actor George Clooney married in 2014.
Clooney is, of course, a movie star and director with many credits. But Alamuddin has a long list of impressive accomplishments. During law school, she was a student law clerk for Supreme Court Judge Sonia Sotomayor, when the justice was on the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Second Circuit in New York. She also has been a former adviser on Syria to the U.N. Secretary General, investigated war crimes in Gaza, advised the King of Bahrain and the Prime Minister of Ukraine, defended Wikileaks’ Julian Assange and freedom of speech in Turkey, and helped a nonprofit try to protect children in war zones from sexual violence.
Which led Amy Poehler and Tina Fey to jokingly ask at this year’s Golden Globe Awards, why was Clooney the one receiving the Cecile B. DeMille Lifetime Achievement Award?
The marriage: Tasha McCauley, an MBA, is a tech entrepreneur specializing in robotics and artificial intelligence. She and Joseph Gordon-Levitt married late last year.
According to her LinkedIn page, McCauley currently is the director of business development for GeoSim, a geospatial tech company of which she is a co-owner. She also identifies herself as co-founder of Fellow Robots, a maker of retail robots for department stores. (Vocativ, however, raised questions, noting she is not listed on Fellow Robots’ site as a co-founder.) Her philanthropic work is equally impressive. On her LinkedIn page, she says she is a director of the Ten to the Ninth Plus Foundation, an organization focused on “empowering exponential technological change worldwide.”
A former child star, he played “Tommy Solomon” in the TV series, “3rd Rock From the Sun.” More recently, he has been an independent-film heart throb, starring in “Inception,” among others. He has reportedly said that the couple met through mutual friends and that she dislikes the limelight.
Edward John David "Eddie" Redmayne
The marriage: British PR pro Hannah Bagshawe married Eddie Redmayne, 33, a British actor, this past December.
Bagshawe was an executive with with the London-based financial PR firm Finsbury, a WPP company. She previously was Global Head of PR at Mergermarket Ltd., a financial media company. Redmayne can be seen playing Stephen Hawking in “The Theory of Everything,” for which he won an Academy Award and Golden Globe for Best Actor (in a Motion Picture Drama).
The marriage: New England Patriots Tom Brady married supermodel Gisele Bundchen in 2009.
The New England Patriots won the Superbowl this month and quarterback Tom Brady was named MVP. Still, he doesn’t outshine — at least in earnings — his wife. The Brazilian-born supermodel Gisele Bündchen has been called the world’s top-earning model. Forbes estimates her pre-tax earnings at $47 million, with deals representing products like Oral-B.
The marriage: Daniel Westling, a personal trainer and gym owner, married Princess Victoria of Sweden in 2010.
Westling, the owner of three gyms in Sweden, used to be Princess Victoria’s trainer. After marrying, he joined the Swedish nobility and, according to Vanity Fair, “morphed from a fitness-obsessed country boy into prince material.” The Crown Princess became the first woman in line to inherit the throne when parliament, in 1979, made Sweden’s succession rules gender-blind. She is considered an able diplomat. A graduate of the Swedish Foreign Ministry Diplomatic Program, she studied political science at Yale. She has trained in forestry and the military, worked at the European Union and in Uganda and Ethiopia and Bangadesh, Washington D.C. and at the UN in Rome.