On Twitter today, Rachel Held Evans threw out a tweet that got my attention. She made the comment that she wondered how men felt about their wive’s/partner’s success. This struck me as a little absurd that there is even a question about the fact that men are excited about, and value, their wive’s accomplishments out in the work force. To this point, I am putting it out there to all of the internet world that I think it is awesome that Marla has excelled exponentially despite having to face sexism in our field over the last 25 years. And she has surpassed my performance in that same field. I measure that success and quality of her performance in terms of written work and leadership of teams of people. I am not discounting my own achievements, but just being honest about a woman’s success in the same field. And to be fully disclosed, we work together, sometimes spending as few as ten hours a week apart. So I share her success more than the average husband.
Working so closely together gives you plenty of time to sharpen each other’s skills, and part of the process is being honest about who does what better. The fact is, Marla’s brain is far better than mine at many detailed tasks. This is despite having our brains mapped and having nearly identical personality profiles (see the Workshops Page for our “Who Are You?” workshop July 27).
Marla’s ability to adapt is much stronger than my own. This has its merits, including much stronger performance of surprise tasks and work load. It also has its’ cost. Adaption costs energy; much more energy than performing in your dominant personality. Think about having to use your non-dominant hand. For me, using my left hand would completely eliminate doing some tasks. But even more important than Marla’s more efficient brain (any neuroscientist will tell you that women’s brains are far superior to mens) is that Marla has surpassed me as a women in a very male dominated field, and that sexism has been reinforced by most of the women involved.
Part jealousy, part tradition, this sexism has limited her opportunity for advancement according to her performance. She is not upset about this, even though it vexes me to no end. And her cool approach to these kind of challenges (there have been many tears as well because, let’s face it, people can be really mean when they are guarding their “standards”) has actually led us to better opportunities regardless of the glass ceiling.
So I am very proud of my wife who is a tiny bit smarter than me because she is cognitively more flexible. Her success can only help us as a family and community. Maybe seeing the sexism has helped me recognize my own, and the emotional growth that it requires to keep up with a smart, beautiful woman has helped me not be as jealous. It is up to us all to identify the tragedy of the best person not getting the promotion because of discrimination of any kind. And that begins with identifying our own discrimination. Let’s all keep growing together, looking for a better way, and being present to our thoughts and behaviors towards ALL women.