Key Takeaways From Women Talk Tech’s Ambition Panel

On International Women’s Day, Women Talk Tech founder Marie Wiese hosted a panel discussion with five female professionals to discuss how ambition shows up in life and in the workplace. The plurality of voices at the table – Melissa Penton, Michelle Joliat, Kristina Cleary, and Marie-Christine (MC) Legault – highlighted how complex the issue of ambition is, as well as its diverse effects on women inside and outside of work. Here are three of the most interesting themes that bubbled up in discussion!

Childhood Influences on Women’s Ambition

The importance of childhood, in general, is well-known in Western society. This is especially true for young girls, who rely on role models in STEM and business to provide career inspiration, as well as motivation during more difficult chapters of their story. In fact, one of the major pushes for gender diversity in STEM involves making sure women are visible in professions like engineering, as well as represented at the decision-making tables of corporations and public institutions. However, our discussions unraveled a couple of interesting threads that don’t often show up in the discussion.

Family Encouragement

Although it should go without saying, far too often women are discouraged from pursuing careers in things that are outside traditional female fields. In childhood, this translates to having a freedom to experiment with different kinds of interests and career paths. The importance of this is demonstrated by three of our five panelists mentioning, unprompted, that their families’ support was invaluable for their career trajectory and present success.

Having Male Role Models

For some of our panelists, who were part of Generation X, there weren’t many female role models in STEM or business to choose from decades ago. We spent some time on this fact, and how it translated into women largely imitating male career trajectories – as well as male ambitions. Our panelists unanimously agreed that it was time to stop trying to imitate men, and to set goals that are authentic for ourselves instead of performative.

Ambition Throughout the Lifespan of Female Professionals 

A consistent theme in our discussions was how different stages of life, like motherhood, cause shifts in goals, ambitions, and life plans. Much like how waves must retreat from the shore in order to crash back in and have an impact, it seems that for many women, times of reflection, contemplation, and reinvention are necessary. 

Zooming out a little bit from our panel discussion, industries like executive coaching continue to grow, with many firms explicitly supporting female professionals. This economic trend indicates the growing desire for reinvention, as well as an implicit acknowledgement that reflection and temporary retreat are an important component of success.

The Importance of Goal Clarity for Women 

Another theme we uncovered is how important it is to be clear with your goals. Especially in the early stages of our careers, it’s easy to get stuck in chasing opportunities that offer the highest salary or best job description, only to realize that that time could have been spent in roles that offered more skills development and higher personal satisfaction. 

Related to the panel discussion, we are currently running a survey about ambition in the workplace that is open to all genders. We are very excited to review a diverse dataset and identify potential trends and signals in the ongoing conversation about female success. If you have ten minutes and would like to contribute to our dataset, you can take our anonymous survey.

About Women Talk Tech 

The Women Talk Tech Podcast is not just another business podcast. Each episode is a new story of a woman who has had to overcome challenges and biases in order to be successful in a tech career. It discusses the hard topics and brings to light the current challenges women are facing today find their into a tech career.