Sitting at the hotel lounge last night, it wasn't a coincidence to find some ladies from the conference, enjoying dessert after a long week. We started talking about the different talks we went to. We rated which ones were most beneficial and questioned the validity of true engineering for others.
After devouring a warm bread pudding and ice cream that the hotel restaurant offered, there was a topic that surfaced that wasn't offered as one of the sessions: why men are so intimidated by career oriented women.
While I feel that I still don't know the answer to this, there are a few things we can do to remove the sense of intimidation.
Value their career
Over the last couple of years, the few guys that have presented marriage proposals, were confident enough in themselves and their accomplishments that it didn't matter what results I had on my résumé. What I found most beneficial in maintaining a relationship or friendship with a guy, was how I respected his career and what he has done thus far.
I know I'm a stellar engineer (if I don't toot my own horn, who will?) But guys want someone who will coddle them and stroke their ego on what they do well. My advice: take the time to bring up their best days and if they're down, remind them of their best days to help them move forward. Trust me, he'll know how stellar of an engineer you are or else he wouldn't have fallen for you.
Let them lead
We solve problems day in and day out. We're assigned as project leaders because of our great problem solving skills and leadership. But outside the workplace, the man likes to be in charge.
We can talk about equality and about how my decisions are just as good if not better than the next guy but out of respect, it's okay to step back. For the few men I've interacted in my life, they have a sense of pride that they should set direction and protect me from anything that may hinder me reaching my destination.
So once you leave the field, the manufacturing floor or your executive office, it's okay to set your leadership gauge on low.
Don't try to be the engineer with him
This greatly ties into the last section. But the key take away here is that he's not a technical problem to be taken a part and put back together. We all know that constructing systems is easier than dealing with people because the systems don't talk back. There are no emotions or feelings tied to the processes and if there's an abnormality, there are usually feedback loops to get you back to normal.
But men and women are more complex than that. When your significant other is breaking down how horrible his day was, he doesn't want you to bust out an A3 to map out the problem definition. He wants you to listen. Surprising as it may sound, guys want to sometimes just put their head on your shoulder and vent. We don't need to solve the problems or take it from them- we just need to show compassion and respect.
Like everything else I've written, this is solely my opinion from what I've experienced in the last few years. We need to continue to strive to excellence in our careers but if we are serious about being in a relationship, we need to re-visit our values to make sure there aren't clashing priorities. And while the man would probably still be intimidated at first, the few points of advice may help sustain a lasting relationship.