When it comes to ambition, men don’t need permission. Men have long been expected to be cutthroat, ambitious people who will do anything to get ahead. But when a woman exhibits the same behaviours, it is viewed differently. For men, even the sky isn’t their limit. For women, there’s a glass ceiling. Even as we progress beyond that old way of thinking, it’s still the reality in businesses across the country and beyond.
Women are socialised to believe they should be a specific type of feminine. It’s a rigid definition; if you’re not soft, dainty, and gentile, you’re a threat. As soon as you speak up for yourself, you’re labelled a problem. As soon as you stand up for others, you are a target. Even soft, dainty, and gentile women become threats if they show too much ambition.
Heterosexual women seek resourceful men, whereas heterosexual men seek attractive partners. When a man attracts a woman by boasting about his achievements and income, he is intimidated at the thought of a woman being more successful than him.
That power shift is too much for him to bear. And women do often find powerful men attractive. There is also the idea that women see ambitious women as a threat. So, women go out of their way to appear as though they’re not ambitious. It’s exhausting. And it’s unnecessary.
So, ambition is viewed as an attractive quality when a man possesses it, but not so much when it’s a woman. And sadly, many women agree. They don’t want to call themselves ambitious or admit to having ambitions because it’s become a dirty word for women. But the world’s definition is something that many women strive for.
There’s no shame in women admitting they want to climb a career ladder. We sometimes look down on women who don’t share those goals because we’ve fallen prey to the same mentality men have had for thousands of years. You know the conversation – we all have the same hours as Oprah or any other girl boss you have in mind. That is true.
We all have the same hours in a day. But you probably don’t have the level of employees those girl bosses have, so they can delegate many of those tasks to focus on what they want. Wherever you look, you see inspirational women, and every single one of them is ambitious.
How can ambition be a dirty word when teaching women and girls to be ambitious? It’s a mystery for the ages, and the answer doesn’t matter. Ultimately, women are judged more harshly than men, no matter their actions. What’s important to understand is that career ambition is not the only thing that makes you an empowered woman. Yes, your career matters. It matters as much as you want it to. But other areas of your life deserve attention if you want to be an empowered woman.
You need to be and find empowerment in your social life, intellect, purpose, finances, and well-being.
As women lose their fear of being openly ambitious, it’s just as vital that we remember that ambition is merely a piece of the puzzle and not the big picture. Nobody can define ambition but you.
Nobody can define success for you. And nobody can show you exactly how to find empowerment. These are all your responsibility, but ambition isn’t everything in the game of empowerment.
So, as you pursue your ambitions and empower yourself, nurture the other aspects of your life that further fuel your empowerment.