What’s the secret to a happy dual-career household?

As often as not, couples today are equally committed to their careers. Gone are the days when only the man’s job counts. The problem? Talent management structures have so far largely failed to adapt.

This month, INSEAD Professor of Organizational Behavior Jennifer Petriglieri published a study investigating how 50 (heterosexual) dual-career couples shape each other’s professional development. As part of her study, Petriglieri also interviewed hundreds of HR managers from 32 leading global employers on current senior leadership attitudes.

The good news is that over half (58%) of the couples studied were what she calls “bidirectional,” meaning both the man and woman is as committed to their partner’s career as their own. All these couples shared in common a rejection of the traditional zero-sum thinking that the secret to a healthy relationship is sacrifice and compromise. Instead, the modern “bidirectional” power couple sees each other’s self-actualization as mutually reinforcing and essential to the healthy functioning of the relationship.

The bad news is that senior leadership has not kept up with the change in attitudes. Petriglieri reports that few have yet to grasp the extent to which talent in their 20s, 30s, and 40s now prioritize work-life balance, so they can pull their weight both at work and at home. The result? Those who do are winning the war for talent. In her research, Petriglieri found: “Managers with the most egalitarian views about gender equality and flexible working recruited and retained the most talented staff.”

To go further, read:

“Employers baffled by dual-career couples with joint ambitions,” by Helen Barret (Financial Times, 15 June 2018).
“What the Happiest Two-Career Couples Are Doing Differently,” by Benjamin Kessler (INSEAD Knowledge, 11 June 2018).