The economic empowerment of women has been a hot topic for quite some time and understandably so. There are numerous studies highlighting the noticeable absence of females in upper-level management positions or certain industries, while others vehemently discuss the sizable difference in pay between male and female employees in comparable positions.
There is one “gap” that is almost entirely absent from any and all discussions of female empowerment in the workplace, and that is the ambition gap. The notion that women are much less comfortable embracing their ambitions than their male counterparts is both disheartening and eye-opening. Why aren’t more women passionate about what they feel called to do with their lives?
I recently attended the Dallas Women’s Foundation fundraiser, and I was able to hear Tory Burch, a highly-successful business woman and fashion mogul, speak about the incredible journey on which her career has taken her. She began her presentation by addressing the “ambition gap” and why the word “ambition” has never been something she shied away from. She shared these reasons for her acceptance of having ambition:
- She grew up on a farm.
- She was a tomboy growing up.
- Her parents told her she could do anything she wanted to do.
When I heard her list these reasons, I instantly felt a greater connection to Tory. Like her, I was raised on a farm and was always encouraged to pursue my dreams. I know what it feels like to dream big and make a game plan to reach that dream. Tory went on to talk about the 10 years it took for her to see her dream of being a fashion designer grow from some sketches she drew as a stay-at-home mom to the globally recognized brand that she is today. Throughout her entire presentation, all I could think about was what might have happened to Tory Burch if she had never built her bridge over the ambition gap.
Have you battled with this gap? Maybe you recognized the importance of ambition years ago and have been steadily combatting it. Or maybe you have shied away from listening to your inner yearnings to take that leap of faith toward a long-standing dream. Wherever you are in your journey toward your life’s goals, here are some tips I think you’ll find helpful.
1. Listen. Do you want to know what to do with your life? Have you read all the books, attended all the seminars, and still trying to wade through the fog of confusion shrouding the road ahead? Would you believe that the answer you’ve been desperately seeking after has been inside you the entire time? Block out all of the outside noise and distractions and turn your focus inward. Listen to that which you are drawn, what you care about, what you instantly picture when you think about where you’d like to be in the next 5, 10, or 15 years.
2. Make a plan. Once you’ve discovered your destination, draw up a definitive road map to get you there. Planning and setting up goals for yourself along the way will help you stay focused and not lose hope when you don’t get straight to your ultimate dream within a week.
3. Find a mentor. You’ve decided on a direction for your life. You’ve created a plan and are taking steps to reach the ultimate goal waiting at the end. You still have one vital piece missing. We all need guidance, an encourager, a sounding board. Find someone who has walked this new path before you and has achieved what you hope to achieve.
4. Don’t do it alone. While a mentor can help guide you, you can also benefit from surrounding yourself with peers who are taking the same brave journey as you. By building a core group of like-minded individuals, you will not only receive encouragement and drive from them, but you will also be able to pour yourself into their lives as well. You never know what some seemingly insignificant experience or connection might mean to someone else.
5. Remember your journey. When the day comes when you attain that long sought after goal for your life, take a moment to soak in what you went through to get there. Think of everyone who had a part in it, of all the sleepless nights filled with planning and scheming, of the sacrifices and struggles through which you fought.
When Tory Burch achieved her goal, she didn’t just keep climbing. She founded Elizabeth Street Capital, a foundation she created in partnership with Bank of America. Elizabeth Street Capital is focused on not only funding the economic empowerment of women but also mentoring these women. Tory recognized what she had needed in her journey and wanted to give back and provide women also taking journeys with the tools that she knew from personal experience they would need.
While you might not be in a position to set up a multi-million dollar foundation to help other women, you can still impact someone. Offer to be a mentor, host monthly round-table discussions for professional women taking steps toward their dreams, or just take a morning every other week to meet with someone for coffee and just talk.
The ambition gap is something that should be addressed just as prominently as the resources and leadership gaps that we hear more about. The ambition gap is something that all women struggle with at some point in their careers, and yet it is one of the easiest to rectify. Be a part of building the bridge across the AMBITION GAP for yourself and for others!
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