Is ambition still a dirty word for women? Is it less feminine to actively hunger for success? Why is it less socially acceptable? Is the modern world ready for ambitious women?
I suppose the answer to all these questions lies in the fact that we as women don’t trust our talent, instinct, and strength. Traditionally we are wrapped up in notions of self-care, self-sacrifice, and submissiveness. Re-routing from these conventional norms of femininity to the drive and aggression customarily associated with the word “ambition” seems scary to many. It shows a different way forward, someone challenging the system.
The year 2018 was a turning point in women empowerment with the #MeToo movement reverberating across all walks of life. In its wake, there has been a more significant shift towards women supporting other women, challenging the outdated testosterone-fuelled thinking and seeing ambition (possibly for the first time) as a blessing rather than a curse.
It brings me to the often-used word amongst women today “embrace ambition”. An exciting choice of the sentence, but what does it mean to embrace ambition in the present-day scenario? For me, it means being unapologetic about living up to my fullest potential in anything I chose to do. I do not have to explain both my successes and failures. I was raised in an equal for all households with equal opportunities and support. Never a question about gender or the perceived traits associated with it.
Unfortunately, the world and society we live in don’t view men and women on an equal footing, and I quickly learned this lesson the hard way. Ambitious women are often termed as aggressive, whereas the same trait in men is visionary.
When I started my luxury fashion brand; I remember a friend commenting if it was just a hobby project for me. The narrative for men trying to pursue opportunities is reaching their future potential, and the same trait in women tends to be around present-day reality or constraints. The interpretation of the word is different depending on whom it is for. This double standard which currently exists must shift. As women we often judge ourselves harshly and can be our worst enemy and critic. Instead, why not dig deep within us and look to the inherent traits of love and compassion, which we as women are born with abundance and which by default gives us a head start in life. Coupling this with our ambition only serves to make us better leaders, entrepreneurs and mentors.
Some characteristic traits that I have always admired in successful and ambitious women are as below:
Empathy – Many people view this as a weakness, but for me, it’s always been a potent tool. I have seen women put themselves in other people’s shoes which have always helped them in good stead.
Adaptability – Women are better adaptors than men, more open to experiences, suggestions, advice and criticism; which in turn helps them to become better leaders.
Tenacious – We care wired differently, much more dextrous than men. We have the patience and endurance to persevere for as long as it takes to succeed.
Maternal – Care and nurture is in our blood, and we can apply this same principle to empowering and supporting our mothers, sisters, daughters, girlfriends, sisters, wives and colleagues; bringing about a much-needed societal change.
Does the question then lie in how we can change society’s distorted view of ambitious women at Live Enhanced? We can all be the instigators of this change. It starts from us, from me! We need to question the status quo, historically fixed gender roles and social stereotypes. This gradual shift will bring about a massive wave of change of mindsets, perceptions, along with held notions of traditions. And this starts at home! In our formative years with our fathers and brothers and our adult years with our boyfriends, husbands, and partners. At the macro level, it is the civic responsibility of the government to give ambitious women space and opportunity to achieve their full potential. But at the micro-level, this division of labour is the responsibility of the men and women cohabiting.
In the persuasive speech by Reese Witherspoon, “What would happen if we were all brave enough to be a little bit more ambitious? I think the world would change?” Let us try and be a little braver each day and change the world as we go along in this journey
Dina Udupa is the designer of her London based eponymous women’s wear brand. With a career in fashion spanning the globe, she recently launched her luxury brand: a concept that combines a love of the opulent, mystical designs of my native India, infused with a passion for travel and cultural exploration. Dina Udupa is a celebration of luxurious fabrics in simple, elegant design forms.