As a woman, a lawyer and a consultant who specializes in emotional intelligence among arguably one of the most challenged professions of our species– lawyers– I cringe every time I see articles such as "Brilliant Women Last in Love," published August 18, 2007 in Australia’s Herald Sun. The premise– leave it to self-critical, self-effacing women to propagate it about their own kind– is that lower long-term marriage statistics for women who are smart, well-educated and/or successful in their work are evidence that these women are more likely than other women to be emotionally deficient in some way.
Of course, demanding work, of whatever kind, can create stress for both genders, including vis-a-vis their partners and families. And so can over-reliance in personal relationships on any professional strength, no matter how valuable that strength may be professionally.
In addition to those challenges, women have traditionally born the brunt of supporting families– housework, food preparation, social connections, child and parent care, etc. So those women who also have demanding careers are often more challenged/stressed than their male counterparts, who are more likely to enjoy minimal expectations in these areas. Compounded stress, as we all know, can wear down even the best of relationships.
However, there is no evidence that professional women are less likely to have good emotional skills than other women or than the men they are working with. What the research is absolutely clear about, consistent for years, is that married men are the happiest in our population and married women are the LEAST HAPPY, with single women and single men, in that order, in between.
Therefore, it is just as likely, and I believe probably more likely, that the statistics about smart, successful women and marriage reflect the fact that these women are smart enough to realize and acknowledge the unequal and unhappy role marriage often plays in their lives and are also empowered enough personally, and successful enough financially, to do something about it. In the process they are likely to propel themselves up from last to second in the "happiness" stakes.
There is ABSOLUTELY NO REASON TO BELIEVE that the less smart, less educated, less successful women are glued to their marriages because they are so happy or so adept at relationship building. The female depression rate, highest among married women, should easily dispense that myth. Nor is there reason to believe that professional men, less burdened by family obligations and often enjoying the career and personal support of their spouse, are any better equipped to deal with the kinds of stress that professional women cope with.
I study emotional intelligence in both men and women, using the Myers Salovey Caruso Emotional Intelligence Test (MSCEIT), the only EI assessment that is abilities-based, i.e. does not rely on self-reports ("Why, yes, I am indeed emotionally intelligent.") but rather requires participants to react to scenarios.
The results of that assessment show very little difference (women enjoying a slightly higher average score) in emotional intelligence between the sexes–a result many women find surprising. There are a number of other assessments, however, that show clear gender differences, including the Myers Briggs Type Indicator, which reveals women to be much more likely to base their decisions on what is good for relationships than on logic.
But emotional intelligence is in fact fairly gender neutral. If the theory of this and other stories is that leading with your head can negatively impact your personal life, it is a problem that bedevils both sexes– brilliant men ever as likely as brilliant women.