Own your ambition, indeed embrace it.
“I am not a star, there is no halo over my head, fate doesn’t like the color of my eyes, struggle and strive are old friends of mine, who am I? I am survival, I am ambition, and I am pride”
I on the other hand consider myself as an intelligent engineer who is aspirational, hard-working, and ambitious. I have always been associated with these adjectives throughout my academic life at school and college.
There have been days, months indeed phases through my academic and professional career when I am certainly not amongst the smartest people in the room and I have had to over-compensate for those times with hard-work and ambition. The strong desire and determination to succeed is a great strength. It is this conviction in your dreams that keeps you focused and motivated to achieve greater heights; even when things aren’t going your way; even when the path you are treading is all up-hill. It is this ambition that brings a sense of sustainability to your grit to achieve your far-fetched goals.
So, when did “ambitious” really stop being a strength and an adjective only selected women want to be associated with? What changed or did anything change at all — Was I just naive all these years? I really don’t know. The reason I say something is a disconnect in my reality and my perception are 2 simple observations — First, a google search with just 2 words “Ambition” and “women” — any points for guessing the top 4 search results: “Men still aren’t comfortable with ambitious women”; “Why ambitious men are celebrated and ambitious women are criticized”; “Why ambition isn’t working for women”; “The dating struggles of ambitious women”. Second, a leadership workshop where less than 10% of women identified themselves as ambitious. Some of these women I have worked with, they are driven, competent, confident, competitive and ambitious in my definition; however exude a strong sense of denial — Why? As though, it is more to do with being called “ambitious” than really being ambitious.
Woah! Am I being cynical? Reading too much between the lines. I am not sure, but certainly there is dilution in this quality of being “ambitious”. This constant association of a quality with my gender, a subtle reminder every now and then that for a woman it isn’t always a great strength, statistics and research showing how ambition plays on one’s personal/dating life.
The point is not always about men vs women, the point is not even about portraying yourself or your leadership style a certain way. The point I am trying to make is on “Authenticity” — If you are ambitious then own it with pride, play to that strength today and most importantly say it enough without fear of being judged or labeled; without fear of failure or likability — it is of paramount importance that women today say it enough — we need to normalize the word and tell our girls — If you are ambitious be it and be it unapologetically!