Women, Where’s Your Ambition?

Do you conform to the research about women and senior careers?

The Institute of Leadership and Management (ILM) ‘Gender and Ambition’, has identified four main obstacles which hold women back at work:

  • Low ambitions and expectations
  • Lack of self belief and confidence
  • A cautious approach to pursuing career opportunities
  • A less than straightforward career path

Women Have Low Ambitions?

Can that be true? Do we women really have low ambitions and all that it implies? I work with many women who have very great ambitions. But I sometimes wonder if we get ‘downgraded’ because our ambitions don’t necessarily match the male idea of ambitions?

Many of the women I work with, or who come on my courses, have stepped outside of corporate life and begun to run their own businesses, to do things their own way. (See this interview with Sam Roddick for someone who does it her own way and very successfully!) They are certainly not lacking in ambition. What tends to be different about them is that they are not motivated by accumulating wealth but by achieving a better quality of life. Obviously that involves making money but it isn’t the primary concern.

Cup Cakes or Mechanics?

I heard someone (female) in the media talking disparagingly about women and business the other day; they referred to the ‘cupcake mentality’. For goodness sake, they said, women must stop faffing about with girly hobbies like cake making and do real business. They were referring to those women who forge a living out of their hobby, beginning with making cakes at home, selling to friends etc and expanding. What’s wrong with that I wondered?

I believe the comment was sexist because cup cake making is seen as a ‘girly’ activity and therefore not of value. Presumably that also applies to all the those small garage businesses, mechanics who work out of their home garage or rent small premises. Turning a hobby and interest into a job? Funnily enough they didn’t get a mention.

A few of the Cup Cake Women will expand and flex their business muscles; most will be happy as they are. A few of the mechanics will expand and end up with a chain of garages; most will be happy as they are.

One difference between them is that the mechanics, following a male role, will not be derided for being ‘boy-ey!’ Because being boy-ey is OK…

We all have to learn to value the skills and talents that women bring to the workplace and learn to accept that men and women are different. Not better or worse, but different. And we have to let go of ingrained notions that just because the world of work was designed by men their traditional occupations are superior. That said, of course, men can make cakes, (when they get called master chefs, rarely simply a ‘cook’!) and women can fix cars. In fact, when women were brought into the design process of cars an increase in sales resulted. No big surprise as both men and women drive cars so get both perspectives into product design!

A  Question for Women

If you can, take 15 minutes out to listen to my free download, (the link is just up the page to your right), and allow yourself to picture your perfect day. What came to you? What are you doing? Does it bear any resemblance to your life now? Or could it, with a few tweaks?

I’d love you to share with me what ambitions you had for yourself on leaving school or university or college. What did you think you might do? Did you do it? Are you ambitious now? (leaving aside the fact that for women my age, 57 we were actively discouraged from being ambitious, not feminine you know!) And why do you think women are so often seen as lacking in ambition?

Thinking of expanding your training business? I can help you. To find out more, click here

Photo Credit: Ruth Livingstone


Posted on October 17th, 2011 by

2 Responses to “Women, Where’s Your Ambition?”

  1. You know, it really bugs me the way women are patronised for a) focussing on the things they have a passion b) starting small.
    Why the hell would you want to set up a scaffolding or toilet roll business if those things don’t get you going (passion wise I mean). Do what you love and life will be a lot more fun.
    It makes perfect sense to be practical about it and work round your job / kids / gym addiction at first. Then when things take off and you go national and then international you can invest in premises and staff. After all, in these tricky times, cauution and bootstrapping is the way to go.
    We women don’t lack ambition, we just focus it on what matters to us in a way that fits our lives. Ambitious and practical. Someone has to be!
    (Ps read more about our views on this subject in our book- More To Life Than Shoes: How To Kick Start Your Career and Change Your Life)

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