It is time to revise our gender-specific definition of ambition, say Rachel Simmons and Adrienne Kortas in the Harvard Business Review.

“What defines an ambitious worker?” they ask. For far too long, there has been only one answer: someone who single-mindedly climbs the career ladder. This notion of ambition arose when professionals were typically men, who were supported at home by women. Today, women are part of the workforce but still take on a disproportionate amount of tasks at home, preventing them from always focusing single-mindedly on career advancement.

„When women decelerate to establish work-life balance, they are often perceived as lacking ambition. A switch goes to ‚off‘ in the minds of their supervisors, who stop including them in important projects, meetings, and conversations.“

A shift in thinking is necessary:
„What women need from their managers is a flexible approach to growth, not time. This would require managers to measure ambition differently. Rather than interpreting a period of career deceleration as a rejection of advancement, these intervals would be understood as inevitable and sometimes desired pivots that allow women to manage a suite of life-stage demands.“

The authors suggest five ways for companies to promote a “flexible mindset about growth”:

  • „Offer flexibility in pace and path“
    Pace is not equated with potential. Employees can decide for themselves when to accelerate their careers and when to temporarily slow down without fearing any disadvantages.

  • „Offer development opportunities“
    Employees in family-oriented life phases receive individually tailored options that allow them to temporarily pause their careers and then resume them later.

  • „Offer recognition“
    „Companies that nominate women for development programs and select them for visible assignments with no strings attached can keep women engaged, allow them to grow, and ensure they feel valued.“

  • „One is not enough“
    Role models for female junior staff should not only be women who are professionally successful, but especially those who demonstrate that career and family can be balanced.

  • „Offer high-quality feedback“
    „Robust feedback allows women to grow within their roles, even if they have temporarily stepped off the promotion track. It is a crucial retention tool for managers …“.

High-performing women who are supported by a “flexible growth mindset” could provide the company with important skills and experiences in the long term.

„These women are ambitious. They want to advance their careers along a flexible and sustainable path that takes into account the disproportionate demands that are made on them outside of the office. It’s time to make it possible for them to do that. That’s a change we’ll all benefit from.“

herVIEW - Natascha Hoffner

Posted by Natascha Hoffner, Founder & CEO of herCAREER, WiWo columnist, LinkedIn TOP Voice 2020, W&V 2019 – 100 Köpfe
published on LinkedIn on 05.06.2024