About eight years ago on a particularly busy day at work I needed to leave a little early so I could take my son to his doctor’s appointment. I raced out of the office feeling stressed and running late. I was halfway to the doctor’s office and driving like a bat out of hell, when I realized I forgot to pick up my son at school….for his own appointment.
There have been countless times in my life in which I have fallen short in either the mom category or the employee category. I have attempted to do it all, sometimes feeling like I haven't been doing anything very well.
Up until a few years ago I worked full time while raising kids. I took a month maternity leave with my son and two months for my daughter. The short maternity leave wasn’t by choice, but out of necessity.
For 17 years I worked in a fast paced financial advisory office. When I started working I was a part time college student and the only paid employee on a two person team. Eventually I began working full time, and by the time I left the company our team had grown to 12 employees.
One of the greatest things about where I worked was the flexibility given to me by my boss. He allowed me to work around the demands of my kid’s schedules, and never made me feel guilty for leaving early when I needed to take my kids to their school events. He let me work from home when one of them was sick. But regardless of what he allowed, I felt pressure. Perhaps it was internal, perhaps it was because of the workload or perhaps I felt pressure to keep up with the rest of my teammates. I never wanted to shirk on my responsibilities, or fall short in my contribution to the growth of our company.
During my 17 years our production and success grew exponentially. In my first year we were ranked towards the bottom in production, but by the time I left we were continuously ranked as one of the top five performers in the country out of 14,000 advisors. It was through the vision of my employer, our individual skill-sets and the collective hard work of the team we achieved these levels.
I often prided myself on the fact I started in the very beginning, working my way up from filing and organizing desk drawers to building merger and acquisition tools used for acquiring other practices.
I was proud of being fully licensed and passing my Series 7, Series 66 and insurance exams all on the first try.
I was proud of how much money I was making and what it afforded my family.
But there were a lot of times during my working years I wasn’t proud of. Like the time I forgot to pick up my son from school. Or the time I showed up at the bus stop only to find out the kids had early dismissal all week and I hadn’t made any arrangements. Or the time I messed up on some mutual fund trades. Or the times I yelled at my kids because the stress of it all was just too much.
I recently read a great article in Time Magazine called “Why Ambition Isn’t Working for Women”. It reaffirmed many of the feelings I have had over the years when evaluating and rating my own personal success. Women often define success by assessing the entirety of their lives…their career, their personal accomplishments, their children’s grades, their physical appearance. In an attempt to manage it all, inevitably a ball will be dropped, and then we are left feeling anything but successful.
A study was conducted with 1,000 working men and working women. They were asked about their ambition to move to top level management. With less than two years in the work force, women outpaced men in their aspiration for promotions. After two years the number of women who aspired to get to the top diminished by 60% while men remained constant.
In the article it stated that men are ambitious for positions, titles and results. Women’s ambition is to be recognized, valued and to be included. In 2011 there were 12 CEOs of Fortune 500 companies who were women. Currently, there are 23 Fortune 500 women CEOs which is equivalent to 4.6%.
Women are ambitious. Very ambitious. We just define it differently than many men. Ambition for women is much more than having a corner office. We also want equity in our personal life. We want balance. We want it all.
But we have a tall order to fill. Perform well at our job, earn all 5's in our review, bake Pinterest cupcakes for our child’s classroom....all while looking sexy in a two piece suit.
I don’t have any magic advice for how to be more or less ambitious, more or less successful or how to never fall short in any one of your zillion responsibilities.
I would only encourage you to ask yourself what success FEELS like to you. Try not to set expectations for your ambition and success based on someone else’s parameters. Feel proud of all the hats you wear: employee, manager, mom, wife, chef, event coordinator, housekeeper, chauffeur, tutor, counselor, nurse. The list is long. Yes, women are ambitious.
We just need to remember success does not equal perfection. Success equals many things, but we get to define what that is. My version of success is loving the life I live and living the life I love.
And....remembering my kid's names.
Ogtrop, Kristin Van. "Why Ambition Isn't Working for Women." Time 28 Sept. 2015: 52-56. Web.