Does picking the right partner matter for women in reaching the top?

Finding and marrying the right partner, as we all know, is relevant for every aspect of life. Whether career or otherwise, picking the wrong partner will only mean loads of regret and pain, sometimes enough to last a lifetime. But how does it matter in the fast-paced corporate world, where some would stake everything in order to pursue success?

Find an older man

In Sri Lanka, as in most of the world, statistics show that women marry late. Girls prefer higher education and working, while also engaging in pursuing MBAs before considering marriage.

Most are entering their 30s when they eventually think of getting married. While it may be a good thing personally, it can also have the downside – we now have an ageing population and infertility is considered high, causing social issues.

But on the whole, finding the right partner does figure in one’s pursuit of career advancement – it goes without saying that women do need a tremendous amount of support from the home front, whether from the husband and or the kids. With too many marriage break ups taking place in the society at large, almost all of us benefit from making sure we find the right partner in life.  

One of America’s most successful female CEOs, Ursula Burns, has exceptional advice for women seeking to marry the right man who could hopefully, be the help mate in building a stellar career. Burns who was the first African American CEO of a Fortune 500 company started work at Xerox Corp as an intern and eventually rose through the ranks to the top slot.

Burns recalls her mother’s advice, growing up in a crowded public housing scheme – “Where you are not who you are. Remember that when you are rich and famous.” The 54-year-old charismatic CEO of Xerox Corp says she never forgot that. Burns was recently featured in the Wall Street Journal for the five point plan she recommends for women wanting to do well in their careers.

At the top of her list is finding a good husband – preferably an older man. Burns should know – her own husband was 20 years older to her when they met at work and married. She says that he had done the growing up thing when they married and had no trouble in letting her career advance as he was more than happy to provide child-minding support.

Be a little selfish

Burns also believes that redefining work-life balance is as important as finding the right mate. While you will never have a perfect equilibrium of professional and personal lives, one should feel comfortable with what one can achieve over time.

It goes without saying that having the right partner matters tremendously in managing the work-home balance. Support is the key word and without that, no woman will be able to have it all figured out.

Sometimes, be a little selfish, advises the Xerox Corp CEO. Failing to get medical needs attended to and not finding the time to rest and go on holiday can be dangerous in the long term.

A supportive spouse will always want to ensure that his wife is in the best of health – if a medical condition calls for surgery, then his wife can be at rest knowing that the husband will be there to take care of the home affairs. The same level of concern extends to the occasions that may call for frequent overseas travel and long periods away from home on work. In order to perform at her best at work, she needs to be more than confident that everything at home is taken care of.

Take no guilt trips

Burns also recommends that we take no guilt trips as mothers, wives and daughters. There are too many of us on that permanent guilt wagon.  

That’s one load that is never going to go away – unless you learn to unload. It is always prudent to tell yourself you did the best you could, under the circumstances. Nothing can change the past and the guilt would only upset and spoil your future.Burns also recommends that we take life as it comes – not too seriously. Always refer back to the basics – that way, you can stay well grounded. Enjoying life is often about reconnecting with the basics.

There’s always hope for those who may not have found the right partner in life – there is always the opportunity of a second chance. Some however plunge themselves into work and turn into workcoholics in order to turn away from a bad marriage. Such tactics may seem to work but in the long term, they only wear you down. As we get older, we find that we need to achieve a level of peace in our lives – chaos may be fine when you are younger but a predictable routine, with all of life’s challenges whether career-wise or not, help us all.

In the end, it is all about making decisions. The right ones of course, whether in finding the right partner or finding the right career. Too many people assume that wrong choices are the right ones. It matters to learn to make the right choices in life.

(Nayomini Weerasooriya, a senior journalist, writer and a PR professional, can be contacted at [email protected])

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