Behind every great woman (is a supportive partner) - Women's Agenda

Behind every great woman (is a supportive partner)

Building the capacity to have an effective work-life-balance is a legitimate issue for many working women. Managing it can be difficult but there’s a common theme amongst the women who succeed: supportive partners. Supportive partners are the ones who go beyond sporadically picking the kids up from school and instead play an active role every week.

Being able to juggle a family and work, and everything else in between, is still considered a feat for women while it’s more expected for men. One of the dynamics which influences this is the way men perceive the success of women; many men do feel threatened by women’s empowerment. The Journal of Personality and Social Psychology outlines that men’s self-esteem suffers when partners succeed. This tension creates a scenario where women feel guilty and then choose not to propel themselves at work because they don’t enjoy their partner’s support in doing so.

In Lean In, Sheryl Sandberg highlights the importance of finding a partner that lets you put your career first. And that means a lot more than paying lip service to a woman’s job. It revolves around men’s understanding of the importance of this issue and requires them being empowered to take time off for family and seek out flexible work arrangements.

Men and women have a vested interest in improving the opportunities for women to thrive at work. KPMG research estimates the Australian economy could expand by $93 billion if we close the gender pay gap. That represents a lot of jobs and opportunities for all Australians and it starts at home.

When it comes to effectively mixing a career with a family a supportive partner isn’t merely desirable, it’s vital. And whilst in some respects this is a soft issue about the way individuals make their personal relationships work there is a public element too. Because it impacts how all of us can participate at work which impacts the economy and society.

It’s the reason we need to start having open conversations about how supportive relationships work to ensure men and women work together to make both of their careers work. We hear too often about inspiring and competent women being forced to take unwanted and prolonged breaks from their career for the benefit of their partner or their family. But that decision doesn’t benefit anyone in the long run; it limits careers and stifles financial independence. It’s a sacrifice men need to stop expecting anyone – let alone their partner – to make.

Finance powerhouse Suze Orman famously says “If a child, a spouse, a life partner, or a parent depends on you and your income, you need life insurance”. If you have dependents you need to know how you’re going to be secure. A supportive partner will always afford you the opportunity to be self-reliant.

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