- Isabella Lenarduzzi

“Good girls go to heaven, bad girls go everywhere.” *

“Good girls go to heaven, bad girls go everywhere.” *

Good news! A study by Weber Shandwick shows that professional women in Europe are just as ambitious as their male colleagues (22% versus 25%) which is not the case among Americans.

These results are confirmed by various other studies:

Terra Femina reveals that 48% of the French women questioned for a survey in 2013 said they were ambitious and showed the same desire to succeed as the men. However, a very good article in the Havard Business Review draws on a study by Bain&Company that shows that Amerian women are just as ambitious as their male colleagues but only in the first two years that they enter the workforce. After that, the feeling that they can reach the desired level of hierarchy disappears very quickly because they do not feel aligned with what they perceive to be expected of them in order to be valued and therefore succeed. They also feel that they are not sufficiently supported by male superiors.

As women do 80% of unpaid work and still spend two and half times more than men on housework, it is normal that it is easier to have a career in Europe alongside family life thanks to the social services provided by the state and by employment law. There are also more and more female role models in Europe who can succeed without playing golf with clients at weekends and without spending every evening at work functions such as dinner and cocktail parties. The pressure of the old model of “anytime, anywhere” is becoming less and less popular this side of the Atlantic. It is not just the recent statements of Amazon employees that show that or the experiences of women in corporate American companies who decide to freeze their eggs or to stop their menstruation cycle. We should absolutely not condemn such practices if it is based on real choice (for example, they may not have met the right partner at that moment to start a family or that they suffer from crippling menstruation pains). But it is intolerable if such acts are inspired by the feeling that such female traits are a hindrance to their careers.

This further highlights that professional ambition is not a given for women. For centuries we have expected them to serve their families and others, and not satisfy their own personal fulfilment. Of course, things have changed a lot, but the notion of ambition is still perceived as very masculine: competition, indifference, business relations, and the race for money and power. Fortunately, in claiming ownership for ambition, women are changing this perception. They want to flourish in their roles above all else and very few are driven by the desire to improve their social status. As they gain in ambition, they gain in power, but they also define that power differently. Power is first seen as a means to have a greater flexibility in order to make an impact in the world rather than have the possibility to gain advantages for themselves.

An ambitious woman, is still, a woman who shuns the norms usually associated with her gender. She has to take risks, be visible, throw herself into the ring to defend her ideas. She has to spend a lot of time and energy to achieve her goals. Let’s come back to the statistics which have previously showed that a woman’s life (particularly if she has a family) is not the same as that of a man because she takes on the majority of the domestic chores. It is also important that her partner does not stop her for fear of remaining in the shadows.

And finally, she needs to feel that she is capable! Centuries of submission cannot be erased by a few decades of equality. Each of us carries in her the difficulty of feeling legitimate in a role that has not traditionally been that of a woman. We are always judged as “too much” or “not enough” but never “adequate”.
Curt Rice (President of the Oslo & Akershus University College of Applied Sciences) explains how his colleagues measure women more severely in research if they are mothers compared with others. At the same level they earn 7% less. And yet this is Norway which is in the top three of the most egalitarian countries in Europe! He states that what prevents women with children from furthering their careers are not family constraints but the perception of their degree of commitment or level of ambition. “I remember a professor from graduate school speaking once about another graduate student who was expecting a child. He commented on her career simply by saying, “She’s made her choice.” But maybe she hadn’t; maybe we’d made it for her.”

Understanding these internal and external barriers is essential in order to master them.
Ambition is about being bold, bold enough to live. Ambition is having the passion to create, to change, to be free!