February 17, 2023

Ambitious is my "moist"

I detest the word "Ambitious"

I don't think it's a positive word, and I don't really understand what it means in most contexts.  

My new line manager used the word Ambitious multiple times in a "get to know you" scenario - all in what I'm sure they thought were positive ways.  "I'm looking forward to working with an ambitious team" and "you are all so ambitious". 

But... what does that mean about my predominantly female team? That we are all defying the usual gender norms?  That we are all asking for things?  

Here's a thought experiment.  I've found you a partner to work with on a project.  One is nice, the other ambitious.  Who do you like?  One is compassionate, the other ambitious.  One is five foot five, the other is ambitious.  Who do you want to work with?  

Ambitious is not a positive trait.  It might be good for business, but it's certainly not likable.

What do people think they mean, when they use the word ambitious?

I think the subtlety of the word is that it describes women who are behaving like men.  Boris Johnson was a leader, Theresa May is ambitious.  

Was Bill Clinton Ambitious?  I'm not sure I heard that narrative at all.  But I certainly heard a lot about how Hillary Clinton was ambitious.  

I'm not sure what ambition means as a personal description, but I don't feel good about it.


  1. Oof, if I had to work with that line manager, I would be very ambitious to get off that person's team. Nails on chalkboard!

  2. I never thought of the word ‘ambitious’ as a negative word. In the context of exercise, I often think of myself as ‘ambitious (as in 'aspiring'), but not necessarily competitive’. In other contexts though, I can see how it can have a negative connotation, especially when used as a trait for women in a work setting. Interesting observation.

  3. I never thought much about the word "ambitious" before (but I will now.) i actually looked up the definition and came up with "having a strong desire for success, achievement, power or wealth." It does sound of-putting. I'm especially interested in your observation of how it's used to describe women who are taking on roles that are traditionally masculine.