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We asked: How ambitious are you?

Chatelaine surveyed 1,000 Canadian women between 35 and 45 to find out if they want to be seen as successful, if they’d like a mentor and if they’re cool with calling themselves feminists.

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The Basics

What is your relationship status?

  • Married49%
  • Common law19%
  • Dating someone8%
  • Single25%

What is your employment status?

  • Working full-time54%
  • Working part-time13%
  • Full-time mom9%
  • Self-employed8%
  • Not working right now15%

Do you have kids?

  • Yes, they live with me full-time60%
  • Yes, they live with me part-time3%
  • Yes, they don’t live with me4%
  • No34%

63 percent of women surveyed do not consider themselves feminists.

When it comes to their career, 45 percent say they’re somewhat ambitious, 17 percent are very ambitious, and 38 percent say not really or not at all.


Just over half say ambition is somewhat important for a woman. 37 percent say it’s very important.

We Ask

How important is ambition to you?

“I hate to say this, but I think ambition might be a younger woman’s game. 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 tradeoff in my time and sanity doesn’t seem worth it.” — Nicole, 41

47 percent say being described as ambitious makes them feel proud.

How else does it make them feel?
  • Confident46%
  • Strong32%
  • Energized25%
  • Concerned6%
  • Embarassed6%
  • Guilty2%
  • Ashamed1%

70 percent of respondents say ambition is something you develop, not something you’re born with.

41 percent say obligations to kids stop them from being more ambitious.

What else gets in the way?
  • Lack of opportunities31%
  • Lack of confidence21%
  • Lack of time18%
  • Fear of failure18%
  • Lack of desire17%
  • Interests outside of work14%
  • Lack of mentorship9%
  • Obligations to partner6%

28 percent believe flexible hours are the most important part of a job, 25 percent say it’s salary, and 16 percent pick a supportive environment.

Nearly two-thirds would not take their boss’ job, if offered.

The Boss' Job
We Ask

What does this mean for our career trajectories?

“Organizations are demanding a lot more of their workers, without a whole lot of recognition or loyalty on the employers’ part. Companies aren’t holding up their end of the bargain. I’d like to be optimistic: that if we move to a market where people are less locked into their employers, it leaves more space for people to step back for a while, adjust their working lives, pursue other opportunities and step back in. But while, in theory, people have more flexibility, often what it means is more insecurity about the work coming down the pipe, which makes people more likely to work day and night for a contract and less likely to turn down a job in order to travel instead. Women’s social networks don’t always work as effectively for them as men’s do in the workforce, and if you’re constantly at the hiring stage, that’s where unconscious biases about women and mothers have the most free range.” — Sylvia Fuller, associate professor of sociology, University of British Columbia

41 percent say it’s very important to be viewed as successful at work; 43 percent say it’s somewhat important.

61 percent believe there are masculine and feminine approaches to leadership. The most common word for a feminine leadership style? Collaborative.

We Ask

Are female leaders more collaborative?

“I do feel like female leaders, as a rule, work in a way that is more grounded, supportive and teamoriented. I don’t know that it’s anything innate; it might, unfortunately, just be the way our culture is shaped. Because I’ve also noticed that, by and large, the women who behave the most like men are the ones who rise to the top.” — Denise, 42


64 percent have not had a mentor at work. Among the 36 percent who have, two-thirds were mentored by a woman.

64 percent don’t want a mentor anyway.


Our online survey was conducted by Abacus Data with 1,000 women between 35 and 45 in Canada, January 3–5, 2017. A random sample of panellists were invited to complete the survey from a large representative panel of Canadians, recruited and managed by Research Now, one of the world’s leading providers of online research samples. For complete methodology, visit

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