Some absolutely adore it; some loath it. My partner and I have never really been ones to celebrate the day with romantic gestures, but, since having kids the rare opportunity to take some time to celebrate us as a couple feels more appealing!
I do believe, however, that there is something 10 times more romantic than flowers on Valentine’s Day. That is to be fully supported by your partner on your dreams for career progression.
Bear with me.
Research suggests that when people have children, often women’s career progression tends to stall whilst male trajectories progress.
Now, of course, you don’t need a partner to progress your career, in fact, there are many, including Avivah Wittenberg-Cox, who believe that an unsupportive partner can hinder your career progression and it’s better not to have any partner than having an unsupportive one.
But, if you’re taking some time to celebrate your partnership this year, this could be the perfect opportunity to talk about the very practical things your other half could do to support your career progression.
Here are some ideas for things you could discuss at your Valentine’s Day dinner.
When was the last time anyone asked you about your career dreams? In fact, when was the last time you really thought about these ambitions yourself? A quiet moment together could be the perfect opportunity to talk about your ambitions for the future and how you might get there together. Why not take it in turns to ask each other ‘what are your career dreams?’ and just listen for 10 minutes. You may be surprised where the conversation leads. Our 10 questions for couples to ask prompts might be a helpful conversation starter.
We hear from our Leaders Plus Fellows that one of the biggest barriers to career progression is finding the time to think carefully about what they want and how to get there. So, why not think about the practical things you can do as a couple to create the mental space you need to concentrate on your career? For example, you can agree a regular catch up on the last Friday of every month to discuss career development. Or, if there is simply too much on your plate such as household admin or childcare, discuss how to divide up the mental load more evenly. Remember, it is not just about dividing tasks equally but dividing the mental load!
Career development can often come with big decisions that affect your home life. So, if you’re aiming for a senior career, it can help to have discussed your position on these in advance. For example, would you be willing to relocate for a role? If yes, does that include internationally? And what childcare arrangements would you consider in order to accommodate a more demanding role. Ironing out some of these beforehand can help make the process less stressful.
Have the honest long-term chat about attitudes to flexible working. If you have children who, if anyone, is willing to work part-time. Sadly, a huge factor in the gender pay gap is the burden on mothers to move to part-time working, around 25% of the gender pay gap is driven by the fact that part time work is paid less per hour than fulltime work per hour, so having an honest discussion upfront about your preferences on flexible working and considering a shared responsibility for part-time working will help to counter this. Of course, we need to change that part time penalty and organisations such as Leaders Plus are trying to change that.
Successful career progression for couples comes in many shapes and sizes and there really is no ‘one-size-fits-all’ solution. But thinking in advance about what might work could be helpful. Will it be a dual career model where both couples are in careers that are equally valued? Or will there be a primary/secondary career model? Will it change over time? Have an honest chat about that. Professor Jennifer Petriglieri finds that dual career models are as happy as the other ones, something she discusses in depth on our Big Careers, Small Children podcast.
The best way that your partner can have an impact on your career is by being conscientious. Brittany C Solomon and Joshua J Jackson found that your partner’s conscientiousness has an impact on your income, on job satisfaction and on promotion, her research found that people who have very conscientious spouses are 50% more likely to be promoted. I.e. if your partner does what they say they will do, it makes you more likely to succeed in your career.
So, how about, when you have that romantic dinner this Valentine’s Day, what better way to show love than to share your career dreams with each other and discuss how you can support each other to achieve them. Happy Valentines!
Verena Hefti, FRSA is the CEO and Founder of the award-winning social enterprise Leaders Plus and the host of the 5-star rated Big Careers, Small Children Podcast.
Too often parents feel they have to choose between being a good parent and a fulfilling leadership career. Leaders Plus exist to change this and
supports leaders with young children to progress their own careers alongside raising their families, as well as empowering parents to drive change within their organisations through a ground-breaking Fellowship Programme.
As part of the 9-month Fellowship, parents receive a senior leader mentor, expert career development support, group coaching, a supportive cross sector network of peers and practical support to overcome work/life hurdles. The Fellowship is accessible online and face-to-face and is open to all genders, the closing date for applications is 01 March 2022.