Every Career Counts

Dual career couples refers to highly educated couples, pursuing independent careers and supporting each other; sharing family duties and helping each other such that both may have successful careers.
Four featured speakers and more than 50 participants were present at the event at the Becton Dickinson (BD) headquarters in Eysins (close to Nyon). The speakers spoke using their personal experiences of the challenges of dual career couples and family, provided advice to keep both partners happy and shared best practices through four round tables:

Gender partnership and balancing both professional and home life.
Thumoe Aung, senior director globaI IT services at BD 

Employees are more productive and effective at work if they have a better lifestyle. This can be achieved if management actively promotes a healthy balance between work and personal life.

Priority should be given to family/kids. In some cases, negotiations and compromises need to be made to ensure that work obligations are met while enabling the individual to also be present at the special events of the family members. 

Management of stress should be taken into account and taking small breaks frequently can improve to change the focus of the brain and long-term productivity.

In addition to a good work-life balance, dual career couples often require partners having to juggle many priorities and responsibilities and they need to accept that they may have to prioritize on which activities are the most important. 

What to do in case of Expat opportunity for one partner.
Andréa Girardot, vice president, global customer services at BD

Often moving abroad for a career opportunity of one member of the couple may result in the other facing difficulties to find a new job or needing to stay at home because priority is given to their partner’s career. However, sometimes the trailing partners have opportunities to continue their career:

  • by keeping their previous jobs, or
  • by proposing to adjust their position and/or modify roles and responsibilities within the company whilst retaining its alignment to the organization’s objectives. 

Andréa stressed the importance of professional and personal networking when moving to a new country. The trailing partner might need a year to adjust to the new culture and workplace. He or she should start socializing at an early stage whilst maintaining contacts with old friends and family.

How to manage dual careers within the same corporation? The case of P&G
Daniela Bottarelli, sales director international customers at P&G. 

Daniela Bottarelli has had sales roles that have often required a high degree of travel. This has meant long periods of time away from home. This resulted in her husband taking on the demanding role of taking care of their young children day-to-day while she would only see the children during the weekend.

Neither Daniela nor her husband wished to become the leading partner, so the other would be the trailing partner. 

Discussion centered on the premise that when couples do not wish to or cannot prioritize one career over that of the other (often when one partner becomes the leading partner and the other the trailing spouse) the couple needs to make strategic choices to ensure family success long-term and this can be achieved through: 

  • solutions such as home working
  • a common vision for the family
  • and not feeling guilty if the stay-at-home partner must deal with the day-to-day family obligations.

Increasingly men are actively involved in initiatives to highlight the importance of paternity leave. Yet, in comparison to women, society and the workplace often ask questions that could lead to the notion that it is less important. Examples of questions that may be asked are: 

  • Do you really need to take it?
  • Could you take it another time? 

When the woman is in a high-level position and the husband, or partner, decides to take on a more supporting role, mechanisms need to be in place such that their voice should be heard and are involved in the family’s decision-making processes.

What are the criteria and factors of a successful dual career couple?
Iris Obermueller, global director Biopharma at Merck.

There are many reasons why becoming a successful dual career couple could be seen as an impossible mission, even for the likes of Tom Cruise. Yet, implementing several strategies can improve the chances of success. Including: 

  • looking for a common future 
  • setting common goals 
  • engaging the family 
  • and allowing time for yourself (to do whatever you like, sports, fun, reading etc.)

This can make the impossible mission a possible vision, allowing every member of the family to be happy together.
This round table provided opportunities for participants to discuss novel and creative solutions for balancing two careers and the family ranging from our day to day lives and long terms plans. Thus, promoting the career progression of women, especially within male-dominated fields.