Ambition is nOT a dirty word, here’s why

A lot of women hate the very word. For example, “ambition” can imply egotism, selfishness or the manipulative use of others for one’s own ends. Not one of the women who think this way would admit to being ambitious. Instead, it is reframed to sayings like “It’s not me; it’s the work.” “It’s not about me; it’s about helping children.” “I hate to promote myself.” Clearly, some accomplished women are caught up in some sort of fear. But of what?

There is no evidence that the desires to acquire skills and to receive affirmation for accomplishments are less present in women than in men. So why is it that we find such huge differences between men and women in their attitudes toward ambition and in how they create or realise, or even abandon, their goals?

Ambition is a commendable quality in men, yet seems to make women unlikeable. Enough is enough, it’s time to embrace and value female ambition.

On this topic, actress Emily Blunt says: “I want nothing more than for my daughters to be really ambitious about something that they love and want to do” and us here at netwomen, couldn’t agree more.

At a societal level, there are A LOT of issues. Negatively framing women’s ambition has an impact on very crucial things such as confidence, participation and self-worth. There have been many studies done that show how young girls face a greater confidence dip in their teens than their male counterparts. As long as ambition is viewed in a negative light, we’ll continue to see women under-represented in high-level decision-making roles, top-earning jobs and in male-dominated industries. We must change this. 

So, what can be done in the face of the odds stacked against women’s ambitions?

“Some people think you have to be tough to be ambitious and some kind of b***h, but you don’t,” says Kelly who is a social media strategist.

We need women speaking out to address the imbalance and the support work done by global female networks like netwomen! Being open and sharing our stories and not being afraid to be vulnerable, continuing to do what we do will show by example that it’s more than okay to have ambitions.

Kelly also believes there’s an element of ‘see it to be it’ around de-stigmatising female ambition, that women who voice their drive will encourage others. “Ambition inspires others who might be afraid to reach their full potential,” 

We need to actively imagine ourselves into our futures, shout our praises, blow our own horns and realise it’s never too late- at netwomen we have powerful mentors, opportunities for learning new skills, we actively encourage promotions, admire peers who provide collegial support, provide recognition and champion all broad cultural trends. All of these things continuously help achieve ambitions. At what point does ambition stop? It never should.

Until we stop seeing characteristics, like ambition, as gender lines, we won’t have equality. “And we need true equality,” says psychologist Sally O’Reilly. 

If we could just move away from seeing ambition as a dirty world, we’d realise the world’s a better place because of ambitious women!

Sally also says: “We need to stop judging women for having what are traditionally male behaviours and thoughts and acting on them,” and “We need to adapt our language and, in doing so, place better value on the work women do. We need to understand that, in fact, when women run companies, those companies do better.”

Join netwomen today on our goal to support each others’ ambitions across the globe, elevate women to positions of power and have a 50/50 gender split at the top.

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