Why Female CEOs Need a Wife – Or At Least at Stay-At-Home Husband


Anyone — man or woman — who hopes to rise to the position of C.E.O. needs a big support system. In the past, “People used to say that men needed a wife at home and a wife at the office – the traditional secretary,” Harvard Business School professor Rosabeth Moss Kanter said in a recent New York Times article. “Now women need the same thing: an assistant at work and a stay-at-home husband or at least a husband who’s very flexible and supportive. Anyone who hopes to be a corporate chief executive needs a big support system.”

When asked what men could do to help advance women’s leadership, Ms. Kanter, author of the landmark Men and Women of the Corporation, answered, “The laundry.”

There’s still a social stigma for the stay-at-home or less successful husband that women don’t face. And management experts say that that has to change if women are going to be represented in the top jobs at a level commensurate with their numbers and talent.

“Women are not going to say, ‘My husband is not as successful as he could have been because he’s been supporting me,’ ” Ms. Kanter went on to say. “It would be seen as putting him down. But when the shoe is on the other foot, men say, ‘She really helped me.’ People say, ‘Isn’t it wonderful that he has someone who allows him to focus on his work?’ This is culturally valued.”

Statistics suggest that people who aspire to America’s top corporate jobs had better have a spouse, partner or someone else willing to be devoted to their career.

While this is common sense, common sense usually takes a vacation when it comes to dating and relationships. While alpha males might be attracted to alpha females, the most common and successful relationships occur where partners have different roles. If both people are working 60 hours a week, nobody has much to give to the relationship.

A CEO needs a really patient, supportive and understanding partner who’s going to stick by his/her side. Which is why this is a core principle of my dating coaching – date your complement, not your clone.

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  1. 41

    Jake quit his job in May to start his own business and work from home, however I will admit that it’s been a REAL struggle to get him to chip in with the chores.   When he was working 80-90 hours a week I just did everything since I not only made less than half what he did but also only worked 40 hours/week.   He got so spoiled that I swear he doesn’t even NOTICE when things need to get done.   He’s getting better but it’s taking a lot of time and patience on my part to “train” him.

    However, we keep our finances totally separate – all bills are divided down the middle (though rent is proportional to income, we did split it while he was starting his business but now he has enough data to recalculate the percentage which we will do starting in January – he still makes more money than I do so this will be good for me).   He also pays when we go out – before because he made so much more than me and now  because he enjoys getting out of the house and enjoys my company, and that’s the only way I can afford it.   He would LOVE it if I made more than him, though.

  2. 42
    Lynn Williams

    This reminds me of the article I recently read about how generosity is key to relationships that last. I think it was Psychology Today. Even the little things (like the laundry) can be a big factor in whether a relationship works or fails. Particularly, for people with high power jobs, the stakes are higher and doing these little things for one another is even more essential.

  3. 43

    Im financially well off, 46 and i can not stand men who would stay home!! Its so unattractive! I dated a casting director n NYC a couple years ago and he came and stayed for 3 months i was so turned off by it! And i became the man n relationship. He even thought he was gonna get a credit card in his name for his bday! Yuck! Dont care what a woman says, no way we wver wanna take care of a man . Even if we are wealthier . Ewww everytime i think if that loser i get ill .

  4. 44

    I’m a little astounded by some of these remarks regarding this ‘role-reversal’ in this this age of ours. Degrading the traditional ‘woman’s’ role of maintaining a post-post modern household as being something a ‘man’ couldn’t consider, or invoking insurmountable ‘man-pride’, or trifling the absolute necessity of having a well-managed home life to BE successful – especially if one a wants a live-in life partner, is simply akin to the closed, puritanical thinking that educated and enlightened people have fought since the dawning of public education. For a familial unit to make such a decision demonstrates foresight and strategic thinking. Why would a successful professional woman agree to such an arrangement? Do we think she’s stupid? What kind of a partner would such a woman choose for this type of arrangement? A sloth-like freeloader? Would you want to hire ‘help’ – again in this age of ours – and let strangers into your most personal home life, to quit and know all about you? What kind of man finds his identity threatened by whatever duties him and his partner decide are for the good of their family? Do what works the best for you. You’re the one that lives with the results.

  5. 45
    Erik T

    ugghhhhh…all these feminists trying to be men  

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