“Are You Married Yet?”
Great Expectations for Women
by Melissa Jackson
As an 18-year-old entering college, I assumed I’d meet my future husband during undergrad. But four years passed by, and while I’d dated a few people, I graduated with a bachelor’s degree but without any idea of who I might marry.
Looking back, I truly had a wonderful college experience – I met some of my best friends, studied abroad in Europe and graduated with an exciting job offer in hand. While I knew that I’d had a great experience, it wasn’t until later that I realized the marriage expectation I’d set for myself was ridiculous. There was no need to find my other half during those four years when I had my whole life ahead of me and time to shape myself as an individual.
But my parents met in college, and my sister and her husband met in high school, so I assumed I needed to find my guy while I was in school. While this was an expectation I placed on myself, how often do we – without meaning to – put extra pressure on other people by having great expectations for them?
Usually, we don’t even realize we’re doing it. We’ll excitedly ask a friend with a long-time boyfriend when they’re getting engaged. Or we’ll hear about how hard a friend works at her job and try to encourage her with a “Surely you’ve gotten a promotion by now, right?” which actually stresses her out more. Although both men and women can feel the pressures of great expectations, they can be particularly aimed at women.
Unfortunately, society pushes women to conform to a certain standard despite ever-evolving gender roles and the increasing number of women in the workforce. A Harvard study found that single female M.B.A. students intentionally downplay their career ambitions in front of male colleagues, thinking that not doing so may hurt their marriage prospects. Why do we assume that being ambitious is intimidating rather than sexy?
So, what can companies do to avoid increasing these great expectations for women? Don’t pressure her to feel that ambition isn’t attractive. Applaud her when she juggles a family and a career. Don’t talk down to her; she’s smart and savvy, and she constantly multitasks to check everything off her to-do list. Be authentic, and make sure your marketing messages resonate with her by understanding her needs and meeting them with the solutions your company provides.
We should all talk less and listen more. Listen when she’s ranting or stressed or upset about something. Don’t take her for granted. Don’t be shocked when she racks up one impressive accomplishment after another, but also don’t just assume she’s always got it all figured out.
How can your brand authentically speak to women without heightening the already great expectations for them? To learn more about Frank About Women, contact Chief Strategy Officer Shaun Stripling.
The Internal Marriage Tax of Women M.B.A.s, Harvard Gazette, April 2017