Waiting To Exhale? Men Reveal The Challenges Of Dating An Executive Black Woman
It’s hard for an executive Black women out there–and we’re not talking just in the workplace. Professional women find maintaining love relationships a major challenge, and as a result many executive women remain unmarried/or in a committed partnership. In fact, only 57 percent of women over 30 in corporate America are married, compared to 83 percent among high-achieving males.
And these men are not marrying executive women. “Only 39 percent of high-achieving men are married to women who are employed full time, and 40 percent of these spouses earn less than $35,000 a year,” reports the Harvard Business Review. Meanwhile, nine out of 10 high-achieving married women have husbands who are employed full time or self-employed. Only a quarter are married to men who earn more than $100,000 a year.
It’s even tougher for executive Black women who struggle to find significant others with a similar educational status (aka “assortative mating”). Black women are “also less likely to marry outside of their race, which can leave them with fewer choices when it comes to matching up with someone of a similar educational status. And that can have a ripple effect that impacts not only current earnings, but future economic mobility,” reports The Atlantic.
The Brookings Institution recently found that when comparing married women ages 25 to 35, about 41 percent of white women had husbands who had similar educational-attainment levels, but for Black married women that figure was just 32 percent. Nearly 60 percent of Black women had married someone with less education, resulting in a household that earns about $25,000 less each year.
And along the educational gap, there can be an income gap, with Black women taking home more than her potential mate. “The money part didn’t bother me as much, since that came and went with jobs, promotions, etc.,” explained Christopher D. Cathcart, founder of OneDiaspora Group. “It was more about the structure of the relationship, and my ability, or lack thereof, to combat my own, often self-imposed, insecurities. I think every man should date at least one executive-type sister, or one that makes significantly more money. Not so much for what it may say about her, but what he can learn about himself.”
Time is a major factor for hardworking female executives. Dating takes a little effort and creative use of time. “It’s not exactly hard. It’s just complicated, said brand executive Aniesia Williams. “I’m a flourishing entrepreneur who travels a lot and puts more than 40 hours into my work schedule. My dating life has to work around my business life. I’d need for a potential beau to understand the blood, sweat and tears I put into my business and want me to prosper throughout our relationship.”
Williams is not alone in the high hours she puts into her business. Twenty-nine percent of high achievers and 34 percent of ultra-achievers work more than 50 hours a week, and a significant proportion of these women are on the job ten to 20 more hours a week than they were five years ago, according to the Harvard Business Review.
If men are going to be up to the challenge of dating a busy woman, some understanding must come into play. “I think men aren’t aware that a busy female exec puts in the same (if not more) hours as they do. We don’t ‘clock out’ early or spend the day participating in ‘girlie’ work activities. We’re making tough decisions and trying to fit a million things into a short period of time,” explained Williams. “Guys have to deal with a female exec whose phone is constantly ringing, who’s preoccupied with emails and deadlines and who’s planning projects ahead of time. Those things tend to show up during dates, weekends, getaways and more. It’s a challenge, but it could be so worth the work.”
Daniel Morgan, chairman/president of Morgan Bailey Premium Coffee and Tea Co., Inc., who is married to a high-powered female executive agreed, adding men need to consider an executive woman’s needs. “You have to understand that this woman is built differently. She is a go-getter, a time-keeper, with an idea of making a foundation for betterment of her and her family.”
Once in a relationship with a women in this lane, men also have to step up their game, he said. “To keep the life in the relationship you have to be creative. Simple things are more important. She is always running a clock so you have to think of ways to take that clock and make it yours. Send little text messages or small gifts at the office, maybe a card that says ‘Good Morning.’ Simple things will help to bring down that business clock.”
Another consideration for the female executive is kids, which makes dating even harder. “It’s difficult to make time for dating and for my responsibilities growing my business as a mother,” said Taneshia Nash Laird, CEO of Legacy Business Advisors, where she consults with social entrepreneurs growing impactful businesses in inner cities. Describing herself as a single mom mogul in the making, she said, “I realize now that making time to date and enjoy the company of a man is an extremely important part of life/work balance so I just do it. I try not to go more than a couple of weeks without having some ‘grownup’ time. I literally schedule it like I schedule meetings.”
And while Laird makes the time, it can be a struggle to find men who understand her busy calendar. “Understanding that I’m an entrepreneur and that my business isn’t confined to strictly 9 to 5 and Monday through Friday is challenging for some men to understand. Being flexible about the time we spend together is key, but the man who I’m seeing can also be assured that when we’re together it’s all about him and us,” she said. “Because my life is pretty busy and I have children, I do have to schedule things in advance as a date requires coordination of a babysitter schedule and my business schedule. I was seeing someone who didn’t like to schedule things in advance and often wouldn’t commit to anything. We also weren’t in an exclusive relationship, he was just the person that I went out with most, so when someone else came along and was available, I went out with him, Bachelor #2.”
This relationship helped Laird hone in on what she really wanted. “While I was really into the first man, it made me realize that I needed someone who truly understands my lifestyle,” she said.
It takes commitment on the woman’s part as well. “Make the time for your relationship and for dating. It’s just as important as scheduling your hair and doctor appointments and business meetings so mark out time on your calendar,” Laird suggested.
Williams, too, has had to address the scheduling issue head on. “Some of my challenges have been having to be away on travel during special occasions, working weekends or covering events during the evening hours. I’ve also had to deal with having male clients who require a lot of my attention (professional), but having a guy I’m dating become uncomfortable with that situation. I’ve learned to deal with it by letting a guy know upfront about my hectic schedule and the kind of clients that I have.”
During his dating days, Cathcart found he had to make some adjustments when courting Black female execs. “I remember dating high-powered sisters back in the day; it required some adjustments. If you didn’t have much going on at the time, or was between jobs or something, the process of dating an executive-type was a challenge,” he recalled. “As a man, you want to be somewhat in charge, at least in co-charge. And even if she treats you well and as an equal, it’s hard to see it that way and your mind conjures insecurities.”
Dating executive women also requires some rethinking of male-females roles on the part of men, Cathcart said. “As men, right or wrong, we are often led to believe that our woman should place us above her work, while we don’t have such requirements. There is a certain power in saying, ‘girl you know I gotta work.’ Hearing it the other way around, not so good.”
The bottom line is men who are dating ultra achieving women need to be secure. “The main and most important challenge men face when trying to date or sustain a relationship with a busy female executive is them not knowing themselves — accepting themselves and their insecurities and doing the same for the female they are interacting with–exec or not,” said costume designer/Image and fashion stylist Sybil Pennix.
Laird once dated a man who felt in over his head when it came to her career. “I attend a lot of special events, including galas. One man who I was seeing didn’t feel comfortable going to those sort of things and backed out of going to one at the last minute. When I tried to find out the problem he sent me a ‘tell off’ text saying that I needed to be with someone rich and famous or someone who would be impressed with my activities because he wasn’t.”
On the flip side, women also have to be as self-assured in their personal life as in their professional life. “Know you and be you. Love you and all the rest will be taken care of. A man to date or be in a relationship with is just the cherry on top,” Pennix said. “The only dating challenge I have dealt with is not truly knowing myself and what I truly want and not compromising on that. I have dealt with that by prayer, getting quiet and working on myself and letting the other person I am dealing with do the same. It is not my place to change, correct or grow anyone but myself.”