Of men and women

Do Chinese men like successful women?

It’s anniversary week for Dave and me! Four years ago on April 1, we met for the first time. Three years ago on April 5, we got married. That’s us in the photo at right.

My life has been filled with blessings. Chief among them has been my marriage to Dave. But things could easily have turned out differently. I could just as well have stayed single, like many successful women with big careers.

What Chinese guy would want ME?

After all, Dave and I met when I was 37, and while I don’t want to dwell too much on the details of my dating life, let’s just say that I didn’t spend the previous 20 years playing bridge with the ladies.

I used to think it would be great to marry a Chinese guy. After all, I grew up only speaking Chinese at home, and I struggled to learn English. While English has since become my native language, I imagined that when it came to marriage, it would be really nice, and comforting, to go back to speaking Chinese at home. And someday my husband and I might even produce little Chinese babies.

So I said to one of my Chinese friends: “Hey, if you know of any great Chinese guys who are in the market, introduce me please!”

She just laughed.

“Joy, look at you. You’re high-profile, powerful, affluent, and your passport has stamps from many countries. What Chinese guy would want YOU?”

As it turns out, there were few Chinese guys in the higher-level American business and political spheres that I ran in, and ultimately I ended up with an amazing guy who knows only a few words in Chinese and speaks most of those in fourth-tone. Our two baby girls are citizens of the world: 50% Chinese, 25% Hungarian, 25% Italian.

Is it better to marry a career woman?

Perhaps it’s a contemporary sign of our times. Lots of my high-power female friends are single. Not true of my high-power male friends. In fact, the more successful a man is, the more likely he is to be married. The more successful a woman is, the less likely she is to be married.


The case for avoiding career women is made in an essay laden with facts and figures by Michael Noer, the executive editor of the influential American business magazine Forbes, titled “Don’t Marry Career Women.” He writes:

Guys: a word of advice. Marry pretty women or ugly ones. Short ones or tall ones. Blondes or brunettes. Just, whatever you do, don’t marry a woman with a career.

Why? Because if many social scientists are to be believed, you run a higher risk of having a rocky marriage. While everyone knows that marriage can be stressful, recent studies have found professional women are more likely to get divorced, more likely to cheat and less likely to have children. And if they do have kids, they are more likely to be unhappy about it.

If a host of studies are to be believed, marrying these women is asking for trouble. If they quit their jobs and stay home with the kids, they will be unhappy ( Journal of Marriage and Family, 2003). They will be unhappy if they make more money than you do ( Social Forces, 2006). You will be unhappy if they make more money than you do ( Journal of Marriage and Family, 2001). You will be more likely to fall ill ( American Journal of Sociology). Even your house will be dirtier ( Institute for Social Research).

Women’s work hours consistently increase divorce, whereas increases in men’s work hours often have no statistical effect.

The other reason a career can hurt a marriage will be obvious to anyone who has seen his or her mate run off with a co-worker: When your spouse works outside the home, chances increase that he or she will meet someone more likable than you. “The work environment provides a host of potential partners,” researcher Adrian J. Blow reported in The Journal of Marital and Family Therapy, “and individuals frequently find themselves spending a great deal of time with these individuals.”

And if the cheating leads to divorce, you’re really in trouble. Divorce has been positively correlated with higher rates of alcoholism, clinical depression and suicide. Other studies have associated divorce with increased rates of cancer, stroke, and sexually transmitted disease. Plus, divorce is financially devastating.

This Forbes piece makes me think back to our honeymoon three years ago, when Dave and I stood before the Greek ruins of Agrigento, in Sicily. It is quite spectacular what can be achieved with the benefit of slave labor. Things get a little more complicated when those slaves get more resources and thus get harder to bargain with. In the same way, women who work tend to be more able to get out of rotten marriages than women who have no means to support themselves.

While the Forbes piece seems on the face to be deeply anti-female, I believe that at its core, it is anti-male. It assumes that men can only be happy when they feel dominant, that men can’t enjoy robust relationships, that men are not equipped to withstand the constant bargaining and romancing that it takes to catch and keep a woman with options. But isn’t all that what makes marriage fun?

But who am I to speak. I’m just an opinionated 41-year-old female who could never catch a Chinese man.

DO Chinese men like successful women?

As women continue to leap forward in their careers, are they becoming less or more attractive as marriage prospects? It’s a question that will impact the future of China.

I’d love to know what you think. Post your comments in Chinese or English, to my blog, my SINA microblog or my Renren page. Otherwise, if you’re feeling shy, email me directly at joy [at] globalrencai dot com.

* I welcome your comments, in Chinese or English, on the Chinese version of this blog post, which is here.