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Pride & Taboo: “Professional ambition, crossed views between women and men”

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2020 has taught us a lot about the way we think about our job. The coronavirus pandemic has forced us to think about how we spend our hours, often, telecommuting. The famous Quality of working life (QWL) According to statistics from Totaljobs employment platform, 70% of workers are likely to consider moving to another sector. Recent studies also reveal that three quarters of women surveyed were motivated to start a business after the pandemic. A quarter already doing it.

Women today have ambition, and as much as men.

88% of women (91% of men) say they have ambition. Ambition is even highly valued: whether you are a woman or a man, this is a positive value for 93% of those questioned. This is 94% quality. When it comes to assessing the perception of their ambition by others, the results are a little less clear-cut:

74% believe that others see them as ambitious or ambitious. Where can this gap of almost 15% come from? Is it a lack of assurance from the outside perspective on their ambition? Lack of recognition ? Modesty? In any case, there is no difference there either between women and men. Women do not see themselves as less ambitious than men in the eyes of others.

Carried out in partnership with more than 50 networks committed to promoting gender balance and supported by Sopra Steria. This study delivers interesting results. We could sum it up in two words: between pride and taboo. The study “Professional ambition, crossed views between women and men” aims to bring out similarities. The differences in behavior and perception of women and men when it comes to ambition. Professional equality between women and men is not only a major issue for society but also a duty of conscience. It is for this reason that the PWN network wished to offer each woman the opportunity to become aware of her personal relationship to ambition. Brake or motor?

Good news

This study allows us first and foremost to dispel one of the three prejudices that we hear in companies. The capacities of women to develop their careers: they would not be available, not mobile, and … would have no ambition. Professional ambition, women have it, and as much as men. In addition, they value it as much as men in a dual way: as a driver of fulfillment and career progression.

Second good news

The image of an ambitious woman is overwhelmingly positive. Whether in the eyes of women or men. Willful and determined, self-confident, dynamic and energetic, daring. But why then does everyone agree that women do not have enough ambition? What can hold them back in this “burning desire for success”?

First of all, women undervalue ambition for themselves. Twice as many believe that ambition is very important for men’s careers compared to women’s careers. They also speak of it as a taboo for women. Could this be related to the feeling of sham, which can block them at certain levels? “I’m so glad I got here already, I’d rather stay in my place and not risk someone realizing that I’m actually incompetent.”

Women have a representation of ambition still attached to stereotypes. Those of a role model they associate with the masculine, negatively: an ambitious man would be careerist, “political”, domineering, arrogant or pretentious. Who would want to get close?

Companies have their share of responsibility

Half of employees say their company does not encourage their ambition. One can imagine that the impact is even greater for women. More women than men cite corporate culture as a barrier to their ambition. So how to get out of this ambivalence for ambitious women?

Assume: ambition is a positive value, ambitious women are judged positively. We can therefore allow ourselves to live a frank and legitimate relationship with our ambition. Push her to the height of her dreams. Break free from stereotypes: ambition is neutral, neither masculine nor feminine. Its negative connotations persist more in the eyes of women. One can express one’s ambition without fear of the judgment of others. Remain yourself without having to mold yourself into what you imagine should be ambition. Cultivate the three pillars of professional ambition that they themselves have identified:

How can companies fully play their role in mobilizing the professional ambition of women?

Offer personal development and mentoring programs. Encourage women to express their ambition. Train managers to detect the signals of ambition expressed by women, then value and promote it. Review the corporate culture and the ambition assessment process to verify that they are constructed without gender bias.


The survey was conducted from July to December 2017 on the basis of an online questionnaire. 20 minutes long for around 50 questions. Sent to thousands of members of some fifty professional networks committed to promoting gender diversity and professional equality. In France and internationally. 5,363 people responded: 4,809 women and 554 men. Respondents with a high level of higher education and a certain professional maturity.

Average age 40 years (78% are 30 years and over), 17 years of professional experience on average (70% have at least 10 years of seniority). 83% are graduates of bac + 4 and above. 54% are in a management position, 19% of which supervise a team of more than 10 people. A family situation that reflects diversity. 52% live in a couple with child (ren). 9% are single with child (ren). 19% in couple without children. 19% single without children. A mainly salaried professional profile, in a large structure.

79% of respondents are salaried (58% in the private sector, and 21% in the public), at 69% in an organization of more than 500 employees, work full time (88%), in a great diversity of sectors and professions.

Professional Women Network and Sopra Steria

The Think Tank “Women and Ambition” of PWN Paris, the leading network of women executives, presented on September 20, 2018 a large-scale study on the relationship of women and men to ambition within the professional environment.

Professional Women Network is the leading international network of women executives and leaders in Paris. Its mission is to promote gender balance in the economic world. The PWN network brings together 700 members in Paris, nearly 900 in France and 4,000 worldwide through more than 30 cities. In Paris, the network initiated more than 60 opportunities for meetings and exchanges during the year. Creating opportunities for its members and non-members to act and dare. Encouraging meetings, sharing experiences, developing expertise are the key words of its activities.

Sopra Steria is a European leader in digital transformation with nearly 42,000 employees. The company provides a comprehensive response to the challenges of development and competitiveness of large companies and organizations. Sopra Steria has been committed for many years to professional equality between women and men.

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