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If she is not particularly attractive, you tell her she has beautiful hair. I chalk up my success to love, dedication and the fact that luck favors the prepared. It is this growth trajectory, I believe, that prompted the comment. Which may have been an insult. TIME and Real Simple recently conducted our second annual poll exploring this very territory: how men and women define success and ambition, whether they view them differently, how priorities change over the course of a lifetime.
The findings are surprising, and a bit depressing—or not, depending on how you look at career arcs and the meaning of life.
For countless women who struggle to balance work and family demands, it was a validating reality check. Both Sandberg and Slaughter reignited the simmering debate over why women, despite outperforming men academically for a generation, still were not making it to the top. Now lean in is cultural shorthand and Slaughter has written her own book, Unfinished Business, which comes out this month.
I want to get married, stay home and raise my. Companies are failing to see that for women, ambition is about much more than the job. And if laser-focused career ambition at the expense Looking for Unhappy Executive Women a rewarding personal life is what it takes to capture the seat in the proverbial corner office—well, many women would rather not sit there. We spoke to a of professional women about how they realized that ambition meant something different Looking for Unhappy Executive Women they had originally thought.
Being written about in Fortune, and all these things that you would think would make someone feel really good. Yet I was really unhappy! It just seemed absurd. That stopped me cold. And the minute I realized I was not leaving because of what people would think, that was when I thought, Wow, my definition of success is pretty messed up, and I need to get my priorities in check. Yet how we view ambition in others is trickier, especially for women. Relentless ambition in a man is more likely to be respected as what it takes to get to the top.
The statistics on women making it to the top remain grim. While there were 12 women running Fortune companies in and now there are 23, that still represents only 4. In her experience, women are just as ambitious as men. I was raised to believe there was nothing my brother did that I could not also do if I worked hard enough.
And so I went to Princeton, graduated in and headed to arguably the best firm on Wall Street. But then, in the span of five years from toI lost my father, mother and sister. In the case of both my parents, I received the call of their passing while at the office. The moment I absolutely knew that life at an investment bank was not for me was when my mother passed away in Nigeria while I was in New York.
There were a couple of days between when I found out and when I flew out for the funeral. During that period I received a call asking if I would be able to come into the desk to cover before I flew out. Shortly afterward, they called back and apologized, telling me not to come into the office, but in that moment, my desire to be in such a job vanished. I stayed until the end of the year, but my desire to have a future there also died. What does it mean for American business when highly educated, highly skilled employees who have earned substantial workplace equity decide that the equity they have accrued in their personal lives is more valuable?
How does one calculate that in terms of potential profit or institutional knowledge lost? Simply put, American corporate life is set up in a way that makes it very hard for women to feel successful both at home and at work.
Our family-leave policies are abysmal compared with those in other developed countries, and the percentage of American women in the workforce has continued to drop since it peaked inwhile it is rising in other countries. Does a corporate culture that devalues families also kill ambition? For employees with two or fewer years of service, women outpaced men in aspiration. When Bain interviewed more senior managers, the level of ambition rose but was still much lower in women than in men. If corporate recognition and rewards focus on those behaviors, women feel less able, let alone motivated to try, to make it to the top.
When it comes to success in corporate America, context trumps competence. Lisa Shalett, now the chief marketing officer of The Odyssey, a social content platform, recently concluded a year career at Goldman Sachs with both a highly sought-after partner title and the wisdom of experience regarding what women must do to thrive in a male environment.
Women tend to be ambitious to be recognized for performance, to be valued, to be included, and maybe expect that good things will come from that. Barnard president Debora Spar believes entrepreneurial has replaced ambitious for a new generation. Katharine Zaleski is the founder, with Milena Berry, of PowerToFly, a web-based employment service Looking for Unhappy Executive Women women who want to work remotely.
A national poll conducted last year of nonworking U. When I started work, I had this very specific idea of what ambition looked like, and that was that you spend as much time at the office as possible, you take on every project you can. My password was NeverSettle.
I never understood why people would leave the office at 6 when they could stay until 8 or 9. That really started to change several years ago. Men are expected, encouraged to be ambitious. Women are told to have it all, which is a version of ambition that puts way too much pressure on us. I think men are allowed culturally to pursue whatever it is they want, and women who pursue that as single-mindedly are penalized.
I have wondered, on occasion, if what separates men from women when it comes to ambition is a matter of biology. Specifically, hormones. But then I think that sounds retrograde, like something a loose-cannon male presidential candidate might claim. How else, though, to explain the fact that in research data and anecdotal evidence, for women ambition is about a lot more than work?
In our poll, men were more likely than women to say they would still work even if they were independently wealthy and did not need a job to support themselves and their families. Women were less likely to have missed an important family event to advance their careers and less likely to be raising their children to believe ambition is extremely important. For those of us with experience and wisdom, Lean In came 25 years too late.
But the women following behind us make me believe real change is possible. Angela Su is 25 and the lead buyer-planner for digital fashion startup Bombfell. She is successful, ambitious and, like so many of her generation, skeptical. What am I being driven toward? Young men are skeptical too. And perhaps, someday, those two roles will not be mutually exclusive. There are all these different things that I consider part of my ambition. at letters time. By Kristin van Ogtrop. Be the first to see the new cover of TIME and get our most compelling stories delivered straight to your inbox.
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