Recently I was eavesdropping while waiting in a queue to go into a music festival.   I can’t help it – blame it on my natural curiosity developed through years of being an insight specialist – together with unavoidably hearing three blokes talking loudly about their trials and tribulations with women. 

They weren’t young guys – probably 40s and 50s – and what looked like the older of the three was lamenting the ‘problems’ with his girlfriend.  This is how I recall the conversation (with a bit of creative licence!):

“I just don’t know – not sure it will work out.”

“Why not mate?  She seems nice enough.”

“Yeah – she’s a lovely lady, great looking and very successful.  She’s got that high powered job in the City and earns good money.”

“That’s good mate, isn’t it?  Won’t be after you for your money – ha, ha.”  Lots of laughter from the three of them.

“And she’s got no kids, so no baggage.”

“It’s just – it’s just, when I stay over at hers – which is a nice pad – two-bedroom flat with a balcony – bought it herself – she can be a bit fussy about stuff – likes to be in control of everything”.

Well, it is her flat, I thought, but said nothing (although very tempted to join in the conversation!).

“Oh dear – doesn’t let you slouch around then – ha, ha.”  More laughter. 

“It’s the feminist stuff I’m not sure about.”

“I know what you mean, mate.”

At this point my ears really perked up and was concerned the queue might move too rapidly to continue eavesdropping.

“Like, she wants to be independent.  Like, she’s really focused on her job.”

What’s the problem with that?  I wanted to yell

“I’m worried she’s not the right woman for me.”


That’s what I wanted to yell, but too late – the queue moved quickly and I was ushered into a separate channel.

This incident reminded me of a key theme that emerged from our interviews for the Wonder Women book – choose your partner wisely.  Or, as Sheryl Sandberg said, “Make your partner your real partner.”

“What helped my success was that I was fortunate to be married to a partner who understood that my career was important to me.  Make sure you marry somebody who doesn’t have an ego and is prepared to understand and support you.  We have two children and it’s not always easy, but when you’re in it together, that really helps.”

Elaine Barnes, Chief Customer Officer at Cromwell Group (Holdings) Ltd

“As a woman, the bottom line is, if you marry a man who is not prepared to support your career, you will be pushing water uphill.  I married a man who has been prepared to sacrifice part of his career – and he thought it was awesome.”

Helle Muller Petersen, CEO Palsgaard & Board Member

“When you marry an opposite and work together, you have someone you can rely on and trust, but you also get a different perspective.  You stick together through thick and thin, you survive the tough bits, you have fun when it’s great, you enjoy the spoils when everything works out, but it does have to be equally involving and fulfilling for both of you.”

Edwina Dunn, Founder of dunnhumby, Starcount & The Female Lead

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