Alongside some successful women, there are men

There is a common belief that successful women in business and the professions are often single or divorced. However, I am still determining the validity of this statement. Some argue that women must sacrifice their personal relationships and family life to achieve success. Or, women only excel if they do not have other social/familial responsibilities.  This argument suggests that women cannot balance their careers and family lives. It also implies that educated or financially successful businesswomen feel superior to their partners and may not value them as much. 

Recently, I came across farewell programs on social media for the former Minister of Health. There was a grand event and many other events where her friends, colleagues, and supervisors shared genuine success stories in the presence of her husband and children. 

I noticed that Her Excellency Dr. Lia, the former Minister who happened to be one of the 2014 AWiB Women of Excellence, did not fit the stereotype of being single or divorced. She was married to an accomplished man of character who supported her throughout her career. This got me thinking that we may need to add a new category for success, including having a supportive, caring, and loving partner who helps maintain the family’s integrity while celebrating the woman’s achievements. 

I recall that Dr. Lia’s husband, Tewodros Tadesse, was nominated as a panelist for a program called “Men Who Are Supporting Women” in 2015, and I was fascinated by his story.  A man who knows his worth and loves to share with his family.  The traditional patriarchal formula of a woman in the kitchen and the man in the boardroom was not their story.  Both would be in the kitchen and boardrooms on their own accord without feeling intimidated by each other or norms in all social roles.  I noticed the saying, “Behind every successful man, there is a woman,” now reversed, “Alongside some successful women, there are men.”     

Another stereotypical belief is that men are intimidated by financially and educationally successful women and avoid those who exceed their income and power. This can be a reason why successful women often remain single. Some men feel threatened by their partner’s success and may put them down to boost their male ego. This can cause difficulty in submission for women who have decision-making power. Similarly, some women may feel superior and undermine their husbands as they accomplish in their careers and business.

This leads me to question why we need to compete in relationships. Marriage is about commitment and not a power struggle. Why do we become enemies when our partners succeed instead of celebrating each other’s accomplishments? While healthy competition in the workplace or marketplace is natural, feeling threatened by our partner’s success is unhealthy and negatively impacts the future of social growth and development. 

Family relationships require complementarity, not competition. We should embrace our differences and learn from each other in all aspects of life, including education, finance, and politics. We can celebrate diversity and work together to enhance our lives.

I want to acknowledge the fact that, at times, success in business and the professions requires a level of dedication that may conflict with the demands of family life and the possibility that some women may choose not to pursue personal relationships to focus on their careers, this should not be seen as less feminine or nurturing, or power monger and against family integrity.

A valuable lesson I gleaned from the life of Her Excellency Dr. Lia and her husband, Tewodros, is the meaningfulness of publicly celebrating accomplishments with colleagues and stakeholders as a testament to one’s character, intelligence, and strong relationships. This is only possible through a deep commitment to marital partnership, unwavering support, willingness to weather any challenge together through thick and thin, and doing the unseen tedious work behind. A growth mindset and a solid support system are also crucial for women to excel in their careers and businesses.

Celebrating International Women’s Month with the 2024 theme “Inspire Inclusion” highlights the need for a world where everyone’s role is respected and valued. I want us to value family relationships and respect our stance in pushing each other toward accomplishments.  Inclusion for women gives a sense of belongingness, relevance, and empowerment.  That is why we need to inspire inclusive actions, especially in co-leadership.

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