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It’s a term uttered from the mouth of a villain as they are explaining their wicked motivations. In the past, it has been employed as an excuse for climbing over others to get to the top. Statistically, it’s used more often to describe men than women. The word is “ambition,” and women are steadily reclaiming it as our own.

Merriam-Webster defines ambition as “an ardent desire for rank, fame, or power,” or the “desire to achieve a particular end.” The definition goes on to state that the term “applies to the desire for personal advancement or preferment and may suggest equally a praiseworthy or an inordinate desire.”

For too long women have been afraid to call themselves ambitious for fear of being equated with the latter; striving for something we don’t deserve via unscrupulous means. That can no longer be the case. We need to become comfortable with terming ourselves as ambitious, not because it is what a man would do, but because we are striving for more than average.

There are myriad reasons why women struggle with ambition while men thrive on it. External factors, like societal expectations of the gender itself and the overall view of people in leadership roles, tend to keep women from feeling comfortable radiating an ambitious personality.

For instance, research has shown that should a woman actually make it to an executive role, she will likely be admired less than her male counterpart. “The assertive, authoritative, and dominant behaviors that people link with leadership tend not to be viewed as attractive in women,” Maria Katsarou wrote about the Columbia Business School study that found, all other competencies equal, people tend to find male leaders more likable than female.

In another example, a poll conducted by Pew Research Center found that respondents ranked ambition as the third most important value (19%) in men. For women, ambition was in the fifth spot (9%) tied with “hard work/good work ethic.” To make matters worse, the top-rated value for women was “physical attractiveness” (35%). In summary, men are expected to be ambitious, but women should focus more on their appearance and less on career or personal success.

Those societal norms then feed into how we as women conduct ourselves. We may avoid confrontation to appear less pushy, less difficult, and, in turn, less ambitious. A survey distributed by job posting website Monster reported that only 16% of women negotiate their salary and benefits, hoping their work will speak for itself. Staffing firm Robert Half did a similar survey that returned slightly better numbers (34% of women negotiated their salaries compared to 46% of men), but the fact remains the same: women self-sabotage, writing themselves off before giving someone else the opportunity.

That is not to say we do this on purpose. We are conditioned to display more feminine traits like nurturing, intelligence, and morality. To be bossy (authoritative), nagging (attentive), and emotional (passionate) are all said to lead to our demise. However, we could alter this perception if enough of us change our mindset, in collaboration with male allies, and take back these traits to use them to our advantage.

Despite the barriers keeping women from achieving their ambitions, we are pushing forward. We are making strides in a post #MeToo world where the voice of women is being taken more seriously than ever.

This past year, 127 women were sworn into the House of Representatives and 25 into the Senate. Women now make up 29% of senior management roles, an all-time high. Women are graduating from colleges at a higher rate than men, with Black and Native American women maintaining a strong majority over their male peers. And we want more.

At the very least, and with the statistical data as a support, we should be pushing for the demographic makeup of companies to match the country in which they preside. In the U.S., 50% of the population is female, 18% is Hispanic, and 13% is black. With the facts showing that women and minorities are more than qualified to join their white male counterparts in the workplace, is it really so much to ask that the numbers start to even out?

Of course, we ambitious women want more than just equal representation. Feminist icon Ruth Bader Ginsburg is famously quoted as saying “People ask me sometimes, when do you think it will be enough. When will there be enough women on the court? And my answer is: when there are nine.”

RBG’s dream is one we as women can all identify with. Think of how empowering it would be to walk into a board room with only women sitting at the table. Or enter a company in a traditionally male-dominated space, such as STEM industries, and be greeted by a majority of females. Men have enjoyed this privilege for all of humankind. It’s time for women, women of ambition, to take over.

Content junkie and digital enthusiast. Balancing a feminist perspective with a curiosity for technology, trends, and culture.