The One Piece of Advice Young Women Need
Don’t marry someone who won’t take your career as seriously as their own
One of the most important decisions American women make about their careers has nothing to do with raises, internships, or degrees — it’s about who they choose to spend their life with. The one piece of advice that young ambitious women are never told but could make all the difference: The unequal division of labor that often comes with marriage and motherhood has the potential to derail their professional ambitions and personal passions. So if you get married — particularly if you’re going to marry a man — make sure it’s someone who will take your career as seriously as his own.
The difference between a partner who supports your ambitions and one who doesn’t is so stark that Avivah Wittenberg-Cox, an expert in workplace gender issues, wrote in the Harvard Business Review last year, that women were better off staying single than marrying an unsupportive partner.
It’s harsh, but in a country where the default assumption is that a man’s work should take priority over that of his female partner’s, women taking a hardline approach to who they marry is not such a terrible idea.
Wittenberg-Cox cites a 2014 study, for example, of Harvard Business School graduates that showed the majority of men surveyed expected their careers to take priority over their wife’s work, while most of the women questioned expected that their marriages would be equal.
One person’s career taking precedence over another’s isn’t just about big work-life decisions — consider the common scenario where one parent stops working to take care of children. (According to the Department of Labor, 43 percent of women with small children have passed up a promotion or asked for less responsibility at work because they needed to care for a family member.) It’s also about the everyday choices that can have a snowball effect on your ability to progress professionally. If you’re the person who takes off work when a child gets sick, for example, or if you have less mental space for work because you’re responsible for the majority of domestic labor — that impacts how well you can do your job.