Get married, have children, live happily ever after! These words are pretty common advice for most adult women who are not married.

Let us pause for a moment. What if she never gets married? What if she gets married but never has children? And, what if she gets married, gets children but her marriage falls apart? Does that make her less of a leader? Let’s explore and indulge around these three scenarios in three parts of this article.

Dorcas is a beautiful, educated and cultured 35-year old. She should have been married by now according to the ‘script’, but well, she isn’t.

At her office, everything about her is scrutinized, from her dressing to her walking style. If she dresses in a knee length dress, then she is trying to attract the attention of her male colleagues and customers.  Most compliments on her dressing do not stop at ‘you are smart’, but will even go ahead and describe her body parts. If this gets her annoyed, then she is warned that her pride is what is hindering her from getting a husband!

Dorcas is a hard working employee. She has consistently exceeded her targets every year. But the last time she got a promotion, the talk on the corridor was that she had slept her way up.  Her boss has confided in her that even though she keeps exceeding her targets, he cannot promote her, lest a scandal originates. If they have to travel together to inspect company projects around the country, they travel in two different cars. He is just being cautious.

Dorcas is not permitted to have a bad day. If she raises her voice in a meeting or articulates her points with passion, her behavior is attributed to the fact that she goes home to an empty house. Comments like, “She needs a man to tame her. She needs a husband to cut her horns!” are passed around the office.

If she is dating, then it’s an office affair. ‘Is he rich? Is he younger than her? Is she getting married as a second wife?’ Her love life is not hers alone, but the opinion of all those who are close to her.

Mentorship and coaching are important for professional development to encourage the transfer of knowledge from the coach/mentor to the individual. Coaching and mentoring would be highly beneficial to Dorcas career, but she would need to be very deliberate in choosing a female coach. If she gets a male coach, then the relationship has to be very cautious and public. No coaching meeting can take place over the weekend or in a restaurant without being misinterpreted to be an affair. The truth is, as she moves up the career ladder, female coaches become fewer and fewer, and hence she misses out on an important accelerator in her career.

Marriage is treated as the benchmark for maturity and adulthood. On her family front, Dorcas is often left out of decision-making as she is viewed as a child with no real-life experience. Her sister, who is 15 years younger, is accorded more respect, simply because she is married.

Can Dorcas make it as a leader in her company or in society? My answer is Yes. She just needs to learn to close her ears and put her head up high. If she continues working on her competencies, soon she will be indispensable and irreplaceable.

To you single ladies in the marketplace. Don’t let societal huddles make you bitter, let them make you better. Keep smiling, keep working, do not despair. You will make it.

I leave you with a quotation from Hillary Clinton on Criticism: “Take criticism seriously, but not personally. If there is truth or merit in the criticism, try to learn from it. Otherwise, let it roll right off you. ” See you at the top!

Beatrice is passionate about Women in Leadership. She believes that achieving an equal female leadership voice is vitally important to serving clients, community and to the growth of the company.