A recent conversation in the eHarmony Advice community and an article on Forbes.com have raised this much-discussed topic. There are a half-dozen pages of comments and questions on Advice, mostly focused on what women should do with men’s clear lack of interest in successful women. Should she downplay her accomplishments? Should she emphasize them early and push away any men who aren’t up for the relationship? Some have suggested that a woman should use her online profile as a platform to showcase her many accomplishments.
I think the direction of this is all pretty unfortunate. It’s assuming “facts not in evidence”. Ten years of working at eHarmony have made it clear to me that men aren’t scared of successful women. In fact, they don’t mind that at all.
The problem occurs when the two genders value certain traits differently. A very successful career woman probably values her accomplishments highly. That makes perfect sense, and she may “lead” with that accomplishment as one of the most valuable assets she has to bring to a relationship.
Of course, the man has ideas of his own. What he is likely to value most in a partner are things like kindness, loyalty, sexual passion, empathy, and affection. If he doesn’t perceive this successful woman to be strong in the traits he values most, he won’t be attracted to her, and she may take that as a reaction to her success. He values her success certainly, but it isn’t near the top of his list.
It’s easy to stop right there and conclude that this perception that men don’t like successful women is just an unfortunate misunderstanding. But I’m not so sure. It seems at least plausible that some of the traits that make a woman highly successful in the business world might, over time, create a personality that is less empathetic, more hard charging, and more demanding. It certainly happens to male business superstars. If success molds a woman in this manner, it may be harder for men to find her attractive. Not because he resents or fears the accomplishment, but because it emphasizes traits he is less interested in.
There’s certainly no reason why a hard-charging and successful woman can’t stow her tough ways for a while on a date and show the side of herself that is kind and empathetic. There’s certainly no reason why a man can’t take the time to really get to know a woman executive and discover her softer attributes. There’s no reason why, but I suspect it often doesn’t happen.
Incidentally, the dynamic here is the same for smart women, and the oft heard claim, “Men don’t like Smart Women”. They do like smart women. It just isn’t at the top of their list.