Earlier this year, we conducted a national survey of 1,000 Canadian women between the ages of 35 and 45, to find out how they really feel about their careers. Among other things, we asked about mentorship, the importance of flexible work hours and whether it’s crucial to be seen as successful. We also asked, “When it comes to your career, how ambitious are you?”
The number one answer? Sorta.
Most women (45 percent) said they were “somewhat” ambitious. While only 17 percent of women said they were “very” ambitious, the second-biggest group was pretty laid-back — with 27 percent of respondents describing themselves as “not particularly” ambitious. Eleven percent said they were “not at all” ambitious.
When we asked what keeps women from being more ambitious at work, the number one answer, according to 41 percent of those surveyed, was “obligations to my kids.”
Other common reasons included “lack of opportunities,” “lack of confidence,” “fear of failure,” “lack of time/desire/mentorship,” “interests outside of work,”and “obligations to my partner.” However, 15 percent admitted that nothing was stopping them from being more ambitious in their careers.
“I hate to say this, but I think ambition might be a younger woman’s game,” Nicole, 41, told us (she preferred not to use her last name). “I wish I had pushed myself more at the start of my career. I had a vague desire to be partner, but I didn’t kill myself in order to get there, and then other desires — for a partner and kids and a house that wasn’t caving in — took over. Now I have no idea how I could possibly take on more work, and the trade-off in my time and sanity doesn’t seem worth it.”
Respondents also had mixed feelings about being described as ambitious, although most saw it as a compliment (associating it with adjectives like “confident,” “strong,” and “energized”). Nearly half (49 percent) of the women surveyed said they would be more likely to want to learn from or hire a woman described as ambitious, but only 31 percent said they would want to be friends with an “ambitious” woman.
Have a look at the full results of our exclusive survey on women and ambition.