Thirty-one percent of women says they are proud to call themselves ambitious. However, despite their hesitancy to claim the label publicly, more than half of survey respondents said they do identify as ambitious.
In other words, while most women are ambitious, they don’t want to admit it. This is because when women speak up and pursue their goals, they often experience something called the backlash effect in which people perceive them as less likable, hirable or promotable.
Research has shown avoidance of the backlash effect, not a lack of drive, is what keeps many women from self-promoting and fully embracing their ambitious side.
While the responsibility of addressing these shortcomings lies first and foremost in workplace culture, here are some strategies you can use to take ownership of your ambitions:
Celebrate your accomplishments.
Acknowledging your accomplishments publicly can be uncomfortable, but getting into the habit of celebrating your achievements in private could help you take more ownership of them. Start by keeping track of your accomplishments in a daily journal, and be sure to appreciate your own ambition.
Share your goals with allies.
Although you might experience the backlash effect by sharing your ambitions publicly, confiding in a few trusted allies can give you a valuable support system. These individuals can serve as both cheerleaders by encouraging your progress and advocates by calling out biased reactions to your ambitions.
Identify your ambitions in communal terms.
Although goals are often driven by individual interests and values, framing them in communal terms—that is, how they can benefit your company or cause as a whole—could help you feel more comfortable sharing and openly pursuing yours.
Advocate for others in the workplace.
If and when you find yourself in a position of leverage or leadership, consider using that opportunity to advocate on behalf of others. Normalizing practices like self-promotion from all employees, acknowledging implicit gender biases and holding workshops on how to recognize and combat the backlash effect are strategies that can better support all ambitions in the workplace.