Monday, 6 February 2012

Losing my ambition

I stumbled across an article on The Women's Blog on The Guardian today that got me thinking. The article was about the frighteningly low percentage of women in top, board room level jobs. In the US, only 3% of the chief executives running Fortune 500 companies are women and in the UK, just 15% of UK board members are women. Government doesn't fare much better, with just 17% of government ministers in the UK being female.

The article raised an important point: that from a very young age, girls are labelled as 'bossy' while boys are encouraged to lead the way. But is there more to it than that? Why are more women not heading up companies and running the country? Sheryl Sandberg is reported in the article as calling for "girls to be ambitious at work and men to be ambitious at home". Hear hear I say...but...something niggled me.
 Now I'm not disputing this point, I do actually agree with it. But I also think, from a personal perspective, that something else is at work to prevent women getting these top jobs.

For me, my career goals changed forever the moment I held my firstborn child in my arms for the very first time. Becoming a mother changed me in ways that I would never have imagined. I think I lost my ambition the day I became I mother.

The trials and tribulations of the office no longer held me so passionately. I still wanted to do a good job, create great work, but at the end of the day, all I wanted to do was rush home for a cuddle and a bedtime story.

When your child has a fever or is refusing antibiotics, office politics just seem so trivial and meaningless. Trying to decide if a brand promise is aligned with a brand proposition and how that fits into a 5 year marketing plan no longer fills me with frisson beyond 4:30pm. Catch me at 8:30am and I'm all over that brand promise, but threaten to interfere with the prospect of bathtime and sleepy cuddles with my boys and you're straight in my bad books.

It's not so much a case of priorities. I'm sure every mother prioritizes her children, I'm not doubting that. But the shareholders I answer to are a 5 year old and an 18 month old.  They are my Chief Operating Officer and Chief Executive Officer and disappointing them would just be more than I could ever bear.

I guess it's down to balance more than anything. I'm still ambitious, but only to a point. If that point threatens to interfere with my family life, then I'm just not interested.

Which brings us back to the age-old dilemma about having it all...can women truly have it all? Can we be the mothers we want to be while also breaking through that glass ceiling? (Oh, Carrie Bradshaw moment there!)

I'm inclined to say no. Not in my case anyway. Other women seem, from the outside, to manage it. An I'd love to know how they do it! But for me, it's a no. The only board I'll sit on is made of lego.


  1. I think it depends on the family dynamic - I think women can have it all BUT that they can only do it with a partner at home with a less demanding career that can be where the buck stops. If you both try and do it all, that way lies madness not least because you are competing against peers with that suppport network

    The women you see rising to the top are those with stay at home husbands, no children or a strong support network - the rest of us continue to struggle to keep up

    1. So true Muddling - had a similar conversation recently with a high-profile journalist/editor who admitted that she wouldn't have been able to get to where she was today if it hadn't been for the support at home from her less ambitious husband.

  2. Brilliant post. You put into words exactly how I feel. I was never really ambitious but found myself climbing up the career ladder and being pleased to do it. i was just as pleased to give it all up to stay at home with the children. My head teacher at the time was horrified and couldn't understand why I would want to. Whenever I see her she always goes on about how I could be a headteacher now. Perhaps I could. I definitly wouldn't be happier than I am now though.

    1. Thank you :-) It's good to have a clear view of where our happiness lies and being happy with the choices we make.

  3. I agree I think! I will never make it to the lofty heights of business etc but am happy with how I am faring at the minute. Without Hubby having stepped back though I would have found it so much harder to get about as I do

    1. It's tough isn't it...I'm sure they lower that glass ceiling as soon as you give birth!

  4. I have always said that my ambition came and went with my placenta. Before the boys I was a hard nosed career woman. now I just want to be with them


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