"People don't get a sense of self-worth from just one part of their lives," she notes. "Because a woman is a professional doesn't mean she lacks aspirations for a relationship as well, and quite often these aspirations have to be put on hold. I see women drink more. I definitely see them depressed. I had a new patient the other day who was just hammering away at herself. She felt washed-up at the age of 36."
Many of the women who agree with such views are willing to tell their stories only if their names aren't attached. Two women I meet, who have had various Asian postings for United Nations agencies, described their dual lives - great accomplishment and loneliness.
One of them, a US citizen, has given up hoping for a relationship or children, but the rewards of her work over more than a decade in Asia have made the sacrifices worthwhile. She wants to use her name, but says "this wouldn't go over well with the UN".
Another woman, an American who has worked in Asia for a consumer-products company for four years, says it didn't take her long to learn what awaited her. "Before they transferred me, my company sent me to Asia for a look-see," she says. "On the plane coming back I met a woman leaving Asia after eight years. After a few Jack Daniels, she told me, 'Honey, Asia is single-man heaven and single-woman hell'."
Forget dating, she says. "Most Western men are married, and if they're not married, they're playing around big time. And I don't look anything like those sweet little Thai women."
The loneliness is compounded by a lack of understanding in others. "Why do you not have a husband?" is a question taxi drivers, maids, shop assistants and even the most casual Asian acquaintances don't hesitate to throw at single women both Western and Asian.
"It certainly is difficult for a single Western career woman anywhere in Asia to have a fulfilling life," says David Bailey, a counsellor in Bangkok with Psychological Services International. "Most companies don't adequately prepare their executives for living overseas, and they assume they have their personal lives sorted out."
The contrast between the lives of single expat men and women in Asia is illustrated by Sleva's friend and co-executive, Martin Mirmand, who manages L'Oreal's luxury division. Like Sleva, Mirmand is young and attractive. But there the similarity ends. Mirmand, a 32-year-old Frenchman, says his expat existence is "very easy from a lifestyle point of view - the comforts of living, the opportunities to do things after work." "It's very easy to be a man in Thailand, that is for sure," he says.
By contrast, except for nights when she has a work function, Sleva's evenings are spent far removed from bars and nightclubs. She often stays home and eats a spicy Thai salad prepared by her maid.
Marisa Vidaurre, director of St John's Cathedral Counselling Services in Hong Kong, says Sleva's story is typical. "What they relate to me is that expat men are not interested in women who are going to be challenging," she says. "A lot more Asian women culturally find it easier to make men feel better about everything they do. It's hard for a man to resist when every word out of your mouth is a pearl of wisdom and every joke is funny."
So why don't these lonely women return to the West?
"Your career track can be quite rewarding in Asia," says Vidaurre. "When you go back, you are one among the many. It's harder to do special things."
Despite her loneliness, Sleva won't consider asking for a transfer back to Canada or the US. She still wants her satisfying job and to immerse herself in a new culture.
Single, white and looking