A new survey from More magazine confirms a recent assertion by Sheryl Sandberg, Google's Chief Operating Officer, that women of our generation have "blown it," that we haven't dreamed big enough, and that we "lack ambition." Hard words for a 40-something overachieving woman to accept, especially in light of the gains that my female colleagues have made in the workplace today.
The survey shows that 43 percent of American women between the ages 35 and 60 describe themselves as being less ambitious than they were a decade ago. Only 15 percent reported feeling more ambitious.
At first glance, I wasn't too surprised by these results. For women, climbing the corporate ladder while raising kids, nurturing a marriage, and tending to the housework is enough to drive even the most stable woman insane. And as the statistics show, women today still do twice the amount of childcare and three times the amount of housework as their spouses, even if both are working full time.
When I dug a little deeper into the survey results, I discovered something that did surprise me -- women's waning career ambitions are not a result of the conflicting demands of work and family life. Only 15 percent of respondents said household or childcare duties were holding them back in their careers.
Rather, women are not pushing ahead in their careers because they don't want to deal with the politics, the pressure and the responsibility of a leadership role. A full 73 percent say they would not apply for their boss's job. Simply put, the rewards of a bigger title don't outweigh the drawbacks.
According to Jennifer Braunschweiger, deputy editor of More, women's ambition isn't really declining. It's being re-channeled.
"Today's women are ambitious in a different way," explained Braunschweigher in a recent interview on CBS's Early Show. "Valuing time over money may signal a shift in ambition, and the beginning of a more nuanced definition of success, one that takes into account the many facets of a woman's life."
So what is it that women want? Braunschweiger says:
Flexibility is about having control. And that is what women want. They want to be able to decide when they work and how they work. Women want more me time. They've figured out how to juggle career and raising kids. Time for themselves has dropped out of the equation.
Samantha Parent Walravens is the author of TORN: True Stories of Kids, Career & the Conflict of Modern Motherhood, chosen by the New York Times as the first pick for the Motherlode Book Club.
Follow Samantha Parent Walravens on Twitter: www.twitter.com/@nosuperwoman