What 'Having It All' Really Means For Gen-Y Women Managing Jobs And Relationships
Women who have it all are often envied. However, it's always puzzling to discover that most of these gorgeous and accomplished women are still single, while their less intelligent and attractive counterparts find long-lasting relationships.
There are two commonly cited reasons for the singlehood of these women. Firstly, it could be due to negative media portrayal and stereotypes. Sociologist Dr. Christine B. Whelan coined a term for these women: SWANS (Strong Women Achievers, No Spouse).
Whelan claims that successful women are commonly stereotyped as aggressive and ambitious instead of possessing warmer characteristics, such as kindness, creativity and good parenting skills.
Another commonly cited reason is the traditional attitudes that some men refuse to let go of. Many women believe that men still want to date dumb women who are easy to control.
Admittedly, some guys still hold very chauvinistic attitudes. Last year, I was invited to an event as a guest blogger and I decided to bring a guy I was dating. When we arrived at the event, I went around to network and grab some food on my own. This guy was pretty pissed off and said something along the lines of,
As a woman, you should be walking beside me, not walking around all over the place with me walking behind you. If you walk behind me, it is fine because I am the guy but not the other way round.
In my mind I was thinking, “Why don't you be more independent and go and network, too?”
Despite this experience, I do believe that only a handful of guys are insecure and still believe men are superior in society. Studies have shown that times and attitudes of men are rapidly changing.
Based on current research conducted on more than 12,000 profiles on a dating website, it was found that the top three characteristics men look for in a woman, in order of preference, are sweetness, being ambitious and thoughtful. That's right, being ambitious is one of the top three.
A separate study published in the Journal of Family Issues in 2013 titled, “Measuring Mate Preferences: A Replication and Extension,” supports this. Men rated “education and intelligence” within the top four qualities they look for in a mate.
While there are perceptions that would take time to change in society, here is how an ambitious woman can exercise personal responsibility and control over the situation:
1. Emphasize your feminine traits.
We live in a slightly more masculine corporate world (though things are slowly changing). To thrive at work, you now need to display some traditional masculine qualities like assertiveness, toughness, competitiveness and even sometimes, ruthlessness to your enemies.
In this age of social media where personal branding is especially crucial, one also needs the courage and confidence to showcase her abilities to the world. This is something that many women are not accustomed to doing.
However, while traits like being achievement-oriented are highly valued for men, women who possess these traits or who succeed in male-dominated fields, such as business, IT and politics, are viewed negatively and disliked.
Furthermore, while men do value intelligence and ambition, they also want from their girlfriend what they CAN'T get from their business associates: warmth, affection, nurturing and thoughtfulness.
Many smart and ambitious women fail to emphasize these "feminine" traits and end up feeling puzzled when a guy ends up dating another woman who isn't nearly as attractive, successful or impressive as they are.
Thus, when it comes to your personal relationships, your softer side is your best asset.
When a man goes out with a woman, he's not as concerned with whether she's on track to make partner at the law firm; he's more interested in her being caring, showing appreciation regularly, giving compliments and even asking for help.
Men attached a part of their identity in the relationship to being needed by a woman, as it brings a sense of purpose to a relationship. With the new age of independence in which a woman doesn't truly need a man, this causes guys to feel less desired and masculine.
Therefore, to help them cope with the changes in our society, sometimes you can do things like remind him he is still essential and important by outsourcing things you need help with.
Listen to Dr. Ali Binazir, and don't bring your inner CEO to a date!
2. Balance your time well.
A lot of men are afraid of dating "career women" because they fear she will not have enough time for them.
To cope with this, you need to have better time management. When beginning a new relationship, it is very important for you to think about the most efficient way to manage your time.
This year when I got a boyfriend, my primary concern was that I would not have enough time for the relationship. The two of us were people who cared about quality time, but I was so busy with my competition, blogging and schoolwork.
So, I decided to analyze the situation and look for opportunities to turn this into an advantage.
I realized that since my partner was quite good at photography, had a quality camera and a car, this was a huge advantage to me as a blogger. As such, in March, I decided to rebrand my personal blog into a Generation-Y focused blog, where one of my key topics could be the coolest places to eat, dine, visit and have fun.
In this way, not only can I focus on my online business and boyfriend at the same time, I can also reach out to new types of clients in the travel, food and beverage industry, in addition to my usual beauty products and retail advertisers.
We only have 24 hours in a day, so if you have multiple goals, you need to make time for them. There will always be enough time; you just need to constantly ensure that you use each hour and minute efficiently.
3. Don't talk so much about your career and accomplishments.
When you connect with people professionally in a job interview or networking session, very often you have to talk a bit about your job, accomplishments, your goals and what you do.
However, if that's all you talk about to your partner, there will usually be two outcomes: If he is not the driven sort or interested in the same things as you, he will feel very bored, or if he's competitive, your accomplishments might upset him and make him feel inferior.
I once dated a guy I would share everything with, like which news reports I appeared in, which clients I secured and how there were 300 likes on my public policy commentaries.
Then, his inferiority complex led to resentment; he started calling me shallow and saying I didn't deserve the recognition I was getting. He stopped liking posts related to my accomplishments on Facebook and never showed up or wished me well when I made speeches or attended an important event.
Last year, I was very still very confused and perplexed about what was going on, but thinking back, I understand the damage to his ego as a guy with a very traditional male attitude.
Don't get me wrong; I am not asking you to accept such a backward guy and adapt to him. COO of Facebook Sheryl Sandberg once said that dating someone with those ideals will only hinder your professional growth.
However, to mitigate clashes with your partner's ego, perhaps you can talk about work a little bit less until he has something to share in that regard, as well. After all, unless you have no life, studies and career goals are only one part of you. There are so many other things you can talk about.
If you really need an outlet to talk about ambition and success, you can do it on a blog, Facebook (like me), with your female friends or with other ambitious guy friends.
4. Learn to respond well to unwanted male attention.
If you are a woman who is both pretty and smart, chances are you will get a lot of male attention. Most guys can feel quite insecure about this because they fear losing their partners. Some also think it is largely disrespectful to them if other people flirt with or try to hit on their partners.
While it is true that it is not your fault, the responsibility is on you to be mature, protect your relationship and mitigate this external male attention.
It comes down to simple things like talking with these fans less, responding in a professional and cordial manner rather than flirtatious, or not intentionally leading them on so you can feel good about yourself. After all, a woman who is truly good and of high quality doesn't need all these constant external reinforcements from men outside of her relationship to feel attractive.
Of course there are many other challenges that smart and successful women face that I have not touched on here, like being able to differentiate men who like them for their trophy wife qualities and others who really love them for who they are.
Society is designed in a certain way, and it may take a while to change the majority of men's ideals. During this period, instead of complaining, what an individual can do is exercise some control over his or her own life and own up to personal responsibility by finding alternative ways to navigate given circumstances.
With a bit of tweaking, ambitious women can still do well in life and have meaningful, healthy, romantic relationships that complement their careers.
Photo credit: WENN