Ambition – a strictly men only affair?

My politically-correct sensitivities have been severely challenged this week.

The chairman of Saatchi and Saatchi has had to resign after starting a row over sexism in the media industry. He said that the lack of women in leadership roles is not a problem because women have a different type of ambition. He justified this by saying:

Their ambition is not a vertical ambition,
it’s this intrinsic, circular ambition to be happy. 

So they say: ‘We are not judging ourselves by those standards
that you idiotic dinosaur-like men judge yourself by’.

At the same time, Sony Pictures are releasing a film called EQUITY. This is a drama about women on Wall Street who thrive on competition and ambition. The trailer has one character say:

I like money. I’m so glad it’s finally acceptable for women to talk about success. 

Of course I applaud the negative reaction to some ‘idiotic dinosaur-like’ man daring to assume that women lack ‘vertical ambition’. And it’s great that women (or at least some women) feel able to talk about money and success.

But I also find it a really depressing state of affairs for men. The assumption seems to be that men, all men, are expected to have ‘vertical ambition’. Don’t get me wrong, striving for the top job is absolutely fine if that’s what you truly want. But it’s really sad that people (men and women) are expected to play that particular game just in order to avoid being dismissed as lacking ambition and being labelled as unsuccessful.

Yes, success can be measured in terms of position, power and money, but it’s quite a limited definition. Are these the measures that actually mean the most to you, or do you use a different yardstick? And would you describe your ambition as vertical, circular or indeed on a unique path of its own?

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