In the last few years, I have often repeated that I don't have any ambition when it comes to climbing the corporate ladder. I also thought that I am happy wherever I am and it is okay even if I don't get promoted to the next role. Then in the last week, a male colleague decided to leave the company and his reason for leaving is that he is not offered progression to the next level. I have more years of experience than him and still, I am one level behind his current role. This made me wonder if not having an ambition is serving me well. It also made me reflect about what is my purpose in staying in the workforce. One reason is financial independence. But suppose even if I attain some financial freedom in the coming years, would I want to quit the job? I like a good problem and I love the satisfaction of solving it. But beyond that can I envision a future in which I play a more impactful role?
As I was trying to find out the root cause of why I am feeling stuck, I came across the term second-generation gender bias. Women are not discriminated against in pursuing education or a particular job as a half-century ago. But a different kind of discrimination come into play once we gain more experience and have to compete with men for leadership roles. It is so subtle that we don't realize its existence. If you are naturally inclined to speak less, life is not going to be an easy one and that's what I am experiencing now. In the men's circle, it is easy to find a mentor and they get more support and guidance for advancing. For women, it is like running in circles.
I wish there were more women in the workplace. Women often disappear in the mid-senior-level roles because this time coincides with marriage and the subsequent life changes. Though I haven't gone through any of these changes, it is becoming difficult to navigate without the support of other women. I was reading one of the HBR articles and it states that often managers put one woman in a team in the name of diversity and that in turn jeopardize the progress of the woman in a completely male-dominated team. I am going through a similar situation. I have women under me and they are still in the early stages of their careers. Most of the men won't find them as threatening as they are still juniors. But the same is not true for me. They tend to grab every opportunity that comes my way and undermines my efforts. It made me think that it is better to be out of the race than competing with such people. I was also kind of happy when I came to that decision.
One other thing that I often find demotivating is the lack of trust. I know that trust is earned and not given away freely. To gain that trust, opportunities to shine must be given. But often such opportunities go to men and women are made to sit on the fence doing operational roles. It makes me wonder how I am supposed to earn the trust. I am not assertive enough or don't give a proper solution until I could get to the bottom of the problem and have the correct understanding. All these usually works against me and they think that it is the lack of knowledge. It is difficult for me to blabber on without knowing anything while most men find it very easy. I have worked with managers who had complete faith in me and I have flourished under such people. But in recent years I haven't received such support.
If given enough support and motivation, women will thrive. But nowadays fighting the system itself takes up so much energy that giving up on ambition seems to be the easy way out. It is not enough to have a diversity and inclusion program for namesake. The intent of these programs need to be trickled down to the lower levels and then only true inclusiveness will happen. And to answer my own question, women don't lack ambition. They just lack guidance, support and appreciation to progress to the next level in a completely male-dominated world.