Baroness Janet Cohen says Working Women Should Choose Partner Carefully!

Weddingringssmall_2 Last week, in honour of International Women’s Week, I went to a lecture at Lucy Cavendish College at the University of Cambridge, by Honorary Fellow Baroness Janet Cohen, who talked about how she reached career success. At the end of her speech she gave several pieces of advice to the aspiring professional women in the audience including one you don’t hear that frequently, but that I think is increasingly apt: choose your partner very carefully. Why? Read on…

Her first husband was a merchant banker who wanted a wife to stay at home and entertain – she loved him but not his idea of how she should spend her time. The partnership did not last. Interestingly, much of her advice was antithetical to what many people today think of as good career advice – plan your career carefully and let love alone determine who you partner with. She advised choosing a supportive partner and then letting career opportunities come without a great "overarching 5 year plan". It clearly worked well for her – she was a Labour peer within the House of Lords and sits on the Board of the London Stock Exchange, among other appointments. Indeed I meet many women in legal practices who choose partners who have less demanding jobs than they, which provides the family with the support it needs whilst letting her continue her career and be the main breadwinner. The trouble seems to come more from pairings where both partners work in industries that demand long hours.

  1. Did you give it much thought as to who you would marry regarding career trajectories?
  2. How has that worked out for you?
  3. Should more career women look before they leap when it comes to marrying an ambitious man who is likely to work long hours?   
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  • Berenice Mann

    This is certainly valid advice for a 2nd time round relationship, however in my experience it doesn’t matter what hours both partners work UNTIL YOU HAVE CHILDREN!
    Then you need either a partner who will share the load, or support such as a nanny/childminder if you are both to continue with full time work.
    It’s probably hard to really know your partner’s attitude to this until it becomes an issue, and many women these days have children much later in life after several years of marriage/career, when it may then become a problem.
    I would stick to trying to find a soul-mate (which is hard enough I think!)- if they really are a good partner they will respect your career and wishes later in the relationship (hopefully!)

  • Nancy

    We pretty much knew, before we we’re married, that I would more than likely be the breadwinner. When my husband and I first met, I was a 2 year college student working towards a four year degree in biology and knew that I wanted to go to graduate school after that, while my husband worked for his dad doing constuction and landscaping. When we first met, we were pretty much were making the same amount and didn’t really think about who would be making more until we started getting serious about marriage. While it has been a challenge to get him to help out more around the house, he, in no way resents me or my accomplishments and is actually very supportive and can’t wait until I finish up grad school.