Ambition—it's a loaded word. Some women hear it as an insult; others take it as a compliment.
Two synonyms offered by Roget's Thesaurus for ambitious are "aspiring" and "pretentious." Typically, men enjoy the first term, while women are stuck with the second. Why is it that some very ambitious women are beloved while others are loathed? Some ambitious women lend their thoughts:
Law professor, Fox News Commentator and author of Sex & Power
"The world would be a better place if more women were running it, and so long as that is true, then ambition in women should be celebrated as a gift to all of us. Have I bought into a male definition of power? Absolutely. I would love to see more women making the decisions that affect the lives of thousands of people and the policies of nations. Even the most powerful women I know go out of their way to say they're not really interested in power. Imagine a man saying that. Why would he? Why should we?"
Literary agent and senior Vice President, William Morris Agency
"I've never done anything for the sake of ambition that I regret. I'm glad for every ambitious thing I've done. Anyone can go to far, be too ambitious. It's not a gender thing. I'll bet if someone is threatened by an ambitious woman, they're also threatened by an ambitious man."
Opinion journalist and cohost of CNN's Take 5
"...there have been—and I hope there will continue to be—women who periodically pop up on the scene as examples of ambition turned ugly. But so what? I can name dozens of men who have let ambition drive them to bad behavior. I despise the notion of 'difference feminism,' which says women are inherently gentler or more collegial or more moral than men. If chicks are going to be ambitious and reach for the stars (just like men), occasionally some of us will overreach (just like men). When that happens, we can't let it be seen as a reflection on all women."
2000 National Individual Winner of the Siemens Westinghouse Science & Technology Competition and 2001 Best of Category Top Place Winner of the Intel International Science and Engineering Fair
"I spoke with a woman scientist... who told me that women must not use the fact that they're women as an excuse for every evil that might befall them in their career, but they must be aware of it. The best way to deal with circumstances where you might find yourself being judged because you're a woman is to prove your capabilities. As long as you can do the job and do it well, most people won't complain. But if some blatant injustice is done, it's important to do something about it."
Marie C. Wilson
President of the Ms. Foundation for Women and the White House Project
Girls start out ambitious. Girls want to be president of their own lives. They want to speak, to be heard, to be effective, and to express themselves freely. They feel powerful. Their power leads to a desire to pursue their dreams. Yet while girls celebrate their desire, the world does not."
From the September 2001 issue of O, The Oprah Magazine
We Hear You!