Ambition has often been seen through a distorted lens when it comes to women, especially in the realm of business. Historically, assertive and ambitious women have faced (none-too-complimentary!) labels, misconceptions, and barriers. Yet, as the world evolves, it’s paramount that we rewrite this narrative and recognise the importance of nurturing and celebrating ambition in female entrepreneurs.
The Historical Context:
For centuries, women have been sidelined in many professional spheres, their ambitions curtailed by societal norms. This systemic bias is slowly being dismantled, but its shadows still loom. For female entrepreneurs, understanding this history is crucial to confronting and moving past it.
Three ways to make this happen, practically-speaking include:
- Educate and Empower: Knowledge is a powerful weapon against bias. Female entrepreneurs should invest time in understanding the historical challenges faced by women in business and other professional spheres. By reading books, attending seminars, or even joining women-centric business networks, they can draw strength and inspiration from stories of resilience. This knowledge not only offers context but also serves as a reminder of the progress made and the potential for further advancement.
- Build a Supportive Network: Surrounding oneself with like-minded individuals, mentors, or other female entrepreneurs can offer a safe space to share experiences, seek advice, and collaborate. There’s power in numbers, and by fostering a strong, supportive community, female entrepreneurs can collectively challenge and shift outdated norms. Moreover, having mentors who have navigated similar challenges can provide invaluable guidance and perspective.
- Challenge and Advocate: Being proactive is key. Female entrepreneurs should be unafraid to challenge any biases they encounter head-on. This could mean seeking out leadership roles, advocating for equal opportunities, or even mentoring other budding female entrepreneurs. Additionally, they can use their businesses as platforms to promote gender equality, be it through inclusive hiring practices, equal pay initiatives, or public advocacy campaigns. Each step taken becomes a beacon for others, demonstrating that change is not only possible but imperative.
Why Ambition Matters:
Ambition fuels growth, innovation, and change. Without it, businesses can stagnate. For female entrepreneurs, ambition can be the driving force that challenges the status quo and brings fresh perspectives to industries.
To truly level the playing field, we must celebrate ambition in women just as we do in men. This involves shifting societal perspectives and providing platforms where female ambition is showcased and appreciated.
One step towards normalising ambition is to confront and debunk the myths surrounding it. Ambition in women doesn’t mean they are any less compassionate, empathetic, or team-oriented. In fact, these qualities often enhance their entrepreneurial ventures.
Let’s talk, briefly, about humility, celebrated as a mark of character and depth. However, for many women, the virtue of humility often slides into self-deprecation, undercutting achievements and muting their accomplishments. Why is this so?
From childhood, many women are moulded by societal and cultural expectations to embody certain ‘ideal’ traits: being nice, accommodating, humble, and often, silent. These attributes can quickly become confining boxes that restrict the full expression of a woman’s potential and prowess. In workplaces, social scenarios, and even within families, women who loudly celebrate their accomplishments or firmly assert their opinions can be labelled as ‘brash’, ‘boastful’, or ‘arrogant’.
This societal conditioning means that many women find it difficult to bask in the glow of their accomplishments. When compliments come their way, they’re often deflected or minimised out of habit. While modesty has its place, there is a stark difference between being modest and erasing one’s achievements under the guise of ‘humility’. For women, it’s essential to understand this difference.
It’s high time for women to recognise and showcase their achievements. Elevating one’s accomplishments isn’t about arrogance; it’s about rightfully acknowledging hard work, talent, and perseverance. There’s a profound strength in women owning their success stories, amplifying them, and inspiring others in the process. Reframe humility – not as a silencer, but as a balanced understanding of one’s worth and contributions.
Practical Steps to Cultivate and Realise Ambition:
- Surround Yourself with Role Models:
Seek out ambitious women in your field and beyond. Engage with their stories, understand their journeys, and draw inspiration from their paths. These role models can serve as reminders that ambition in women is both achievable and admirable.
- Invest in Continuous Learning:
The world is ever-evolving, and so should our knowledge. By committing to continuous learning, female entrepreneurs can fuel their ambitions with the skills and insights needed to realise them.
- Set Clear, Audacious Goals:
Ambition thrives on challenge. Instead of setting safe, easily achievable goals, aim higher. This not only pushes boundaries but also fosters growth and resilience.
- Celebrate Small Wins:
Every milestone, no matter how small, is a step towards realising larger ambitions. By celebrating these achievements, female entrepreneurs reinforce their journey’s validity and motivate themselves to keep pushing forward.
- Seek a Supportive Network:
Ambition, while a personal trait, is bolstered by community. Join networks or groups of like-minded female entrepreneurs. These communities can offer support, resources, and opportunities that can be pivotal in realising one’s ambitions.
Ambition in female entrepreneurs isn’t just beneficial; it’s essential. As we move towards a (hopefully) more inclusive future, it’s crucial that we normalise, celebrate, and foster ambition in women. Doing so will not only benefit individual businesses but will also pave the way for a richer, more diverse entrepreneurial landscape.