The way to change the world, or at least your world, is to dare to be ambitious. Because when you dare to dream big, you challenge the status quo and give yourself the opportunity to pave your own way forward and make a difference.
For many young females, embracing ambition is uncomfortable. More so than their male counterparts, females cast doubts in their own minds and feel the pressure to succeed differently. For many, it is not passion nor skill that holds them back, it is the fear of potentially failing.
Expectations, perception and reality
There is no doubt that society has very different views about what it values most in men and women with a 2017 American survey finding we value honesty, professional/financial success and ambition/leadership in men and physical attractiveness, empathy/kindness and intelligence in women.
Females have different expectations projected on them and it is only natural that many cast their light only to stand outside of it, continually grappling with external perceptions and pressures. Despite the saying, perceptions are not reality, however it is often over time that perceptions morph into our ‘reality’ with their compelling influence on our desire to “fit in” and impact on how we view the world.
The lens in which we all see the world through is blurred and distorted by our own unique experiences, knowledge, emotions, and self-interest; everyone's lens is different. While the diverse lenses of our society can promote creativity, understanding and the growth of knowledge, it can also see us place more importance on other people's perceptions than our own. The more we recognise that the only perspective of perception that truly matters and that we can control is our own, the less we will hold back.
Being unapologetically you
It takes strength and effort to be truly, unapologetically ourselves. To be open to new opportunities, to challenge the status quo, to push outside your comfort zone, to say ‘no’, to put fear and the judgement of others aside and to chase your dream.
Research has shown that less than one third of all women are proud to identify themselves as ambitious. Yet females are constantly told to shoot for the stars, knowing the many barriers that impact whether the stars are within reach. Let's forget about the "likeability trap," and turn our backs to the notion that ambition is taboo. Instead we want young girls to embrace ambition and be unapologetically themselves.
Ambition is intrinsically tied to our confidence – not just in ourselves – but in our ability to be recognised for our contributions. We encourage girls to start to talk about their future goals from a young age and help them forge a network of people who are there to inspire and support them. We encourage them to try new things and take every opportunity that comes your way in the quest of discovering your passions or developing new skills.
Ambition is not just about having an idea. It’s about finding a passion, being true to yourself and having the drive, curiosity and commitment to follow through. It can be a bumpy path however and we need to recognise those moments for what they are. But by being open about our ambitions and having friends, family and teachers cheering you on and helping you chase your goals, we see confidence grow and a generation of empowered girls ready to be the change they want to see in the world.
Challenging the world
Ally Watson, co-founder of Code Like A Girl, believes that anything that challenges the status quo will face resistance, cynicism and, at times, negativity. Exposure and role modelling is her solution when it comes to solving the gender gap.
Research tells us that single-sex education offers girls the greatest chance to ignore stereotypes, develop strong self-worth and grow in confidence. Girls at girls' schools have higher aspirations and greater motivation.
As advocates for girl's education, we understand that the world does not cater to a single gender. At Toorak, we do not seek to replicate the world, we seek to challenge it, and offer our students an environment that enables them to focus on achieving their personal best whilst also discovering their passions. Connecting our girls with our vast alumni network and partnering with organisations such as One Girl, The Enterprising Girls Academy, CS in Schools and The Careers Department means our girls are exposed to many role models and have the opportunity to take a sneak peek into their futures.
The year to embrace ambition
“If there has ever been a year to challenge the norm, take risks and look back with no regrets, it's this year” ~ Kristy Kendall
2020 was a bumpy road. Mohills became mountains and we have proven our ability to adapt, pivot and persevere. We know chasing lofty ambitions will involve speed bumps and setbacks. We also know the Toorak community is resilient and capable.
So the next time there is an opportunity for us to shy away from dreams or hide our fierce determination, we encourage every girl to stop underestimating their capabilities and shine a big bright spotlight on their ambition.