It has recently been reported that the women’s minister and culture secretary, Maria Miller, wants to offer guides to help parents boost their daughters’ ambitions. This is in response to the Women’s Business Council who believe it is important to raise girls aspirations at the start of their working lives. They argue the poor representation of women in business is reported to be economically damaging and that, as a result, parents should be doing more to encourage their daughters into high flying positions. Indeed the WBC has argued that it is women’s lack of ambition that is part of the problem for male dominated boardrooms!
Lack of ambition? Maybe for some women there is a lack of ambition to reach the top but maybe there are other barriers that make it impossible to reach the top too. Dare I mention lack of (or unaffordable) childcare and partners who won’t pull their weight at home? You know someone has to look after the baby and run the home and if the partner doesn’t do it, then who will? It’s all very well blaming women but men should also shoulder some responsibility for the under-representation of women in public life and I don’t just mean inequality at home either. Boardrooms are notoriously male and, in my experience, they can be aggressive and intimidating places full of testosterone fuelled egos. I know I’ve experienced it when I worked as a PA and I didn’t like it. It put me off developing a business career because I hated the way people behaved (think apprentice and you get a measure of some of these people). You may argue that I wasn’t ambitious enough to tolerate such behaviour but maybe as a woman I naturally didn’t want to behave like this. I err towards the latter.
However, it doesn’t mean I’m not ambitious. My ambition didn’t end when I left work to have a family; it took on a new dimension as I refocused my energies on my family. You see I am ambitious for my children, not in the pushy parent sort of way, but in wanting my children to develop into confident and thoughtful young people. I want them to learn about themselves, to discover their talents and to feel confident and valued for who they are. I want them to learn about the world they live in; to show respect for other human beings and the natural environment that surrounds them.
It sounds corny perhaps but raising a healthy and happy family requires immense work and dedication, something that I personally would struggle to do if I was to pursue a full time career. That is my choice of course and I am in no way knocking those of you who combine both but please don’t knock me for focusing my ambitions on my family. My children need me to be ambitious for them. They need me to fight the system and to get the very best for them and that, as many special needs parents will testify, requires huge amounts of determination and time.
So it annoys me reading this article. It assumes that ambition is lacking amongst women who don’t aspire for high flying jobs and it also assumes that success is an attribute only given to those women who succeed in such roles. This is so wrong because ambitious and successful women can be found in all walks of life whether it’s the mother who cares for her family, the young woman who looks after abandoned animals or the elderly lady who works in a charity shop. I could go on and no doubt you have your own examples of aspiring women (please share if you do) but the point is that ambition isn’t just about making money and aiming for the FTSE 100.