Sheryl Sandberg, speaking at a conference, said the advice she often gives women is, “The most important career choice you’ll make is who you marry.” Based on my experience, she’s right and still, I feel a bit of a twinge of disappointment (resentment?) that comes from the awareness that you won’t hear a man saying the most important career decision a man makes is whom he chooses to marry. The only place that is true appears to be in politics. We do hear that someone chooses not to run because his wife did not want to deal with the constant exposure to public scrutiny. That was one of the reasons Colin Powell did not run for President. [Herman Cain’s withdrawal from the race is something else….].
I know many executive women; those who are married usually have husbands who are totally supportive. In several cases, the men have taken on responsibility for running the household so their wives can pursue their careers. In others, the men have taken jobs that allow more flexibility so they can be available to handle emergencies involving the children or household as needed.
When interfacing with men in the work environment, I have found that men with wives who are actively engaged in their own careers interact with me more effectively. That is, I feel totally accepted as a professional without regard to gender. My hypothesis is that the ongoing interaction with their wives reshapes their unconscious stereotype of women. [Note, I truly believe when bias occurs that negatively impacts women, the vast majority of the time it is unconscious. Society does a great job of conveying a sense of how things “should” be. ]
Similarly, men with daughters are often more likely to be concerned about the ability of women to succeed in their chosen fields. Recent research in Denmark found that in companies where the CEO had a daughter, the wage gap between men and women employees was smaller than in companies where the CEO did not have a daughter. Whether it’s the ongoing interactions with their daughters or the ambition for them that’s subtly shaping their views (or both)-it’s a positive sign.
What are your thoughts about the importance of a woman’s choice of husband as a major factor in her career?