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The one is a tough one to write, partly because I wasn’t sure how to word it properly, but mostly because I like having female friends who don’t think I’m a misogynist douche.

So I’ve thought about this topic ever since someone I used to know told me that she no longer had grand aspirations of “climbing the corporate ladder” but that her main goals are 1) big family, 2) close friends, and 3) happy and steady job. (Yes, like all the other stories, she’s asian, short, funny, smart, and sexy as hell…but that’s besides the point.) The point is, it got me to looking around at girls that I know in corporate america and wondering if there’s a lower threshold for is-it-enough-ness?

I probably most definitely see this through a set of frames twisted by too much time in male-dominated finance. But there has to be a reason why so many of the job search emails that I see come from guys in middle-office, back-office, no-office finance jobs, while I know plenty of girls in corporate support, tech ops, security(?), accounting and are completely happy with it. In a word from my small and biased sample size, do more guys want to transition to something they perceive to be more challenging, while more girls want to go somewhere they perceive to less stressful?

But then, I read this article and realized that I actually have it backwards.

It’s not that guys are more ambitious, but its that men have redefined ambition to be out of the reach of girls.

Modern day banking is the test tube for this experiment. See, E just talked about banking in terms akin to Navy SEALS…yet our job is to just follow directions and work through MS Office as fast as possible. Other than lack of sleep, analysts love to point out how much they can avoid using the mouse. The dichotomy is that the Code of Manly Behavior asks analysts to take pride in working long hours, but the same Code probably would look down upon the analysts acting subservient to another man. Of course, quitting probably is cowardly, but is it cowardly to quit because you are being taken for granted by your bosses?

When men ask it is enough, we think only of external and tangible benefits – so of course we think some girls aren’t as ambitious. But perhaps, if we think about internal work and intangible results, we’d see that girls are actually much more ambitious than men.


P.S. A couple of relevant things made me add an addendum to this.

One) The brother of a friend of mine asked his gf to be his assistant. Mind you, this is an Ivy League-educated (though, it’s the one in NJ unfortunately :-p), works in a top 5 consulting firm and makes 2-3x the salary of an average assistant. Would you ask the same of it was a guy?

One-and-half) Just to show that I’m not immune to stupidity, I was an idiot and said something about assistants and realized how offended a girl would be to think that they are not as ambitious as a guy.

Two) Someone wrote an article “Can you have it all?” and spawned a world of debate.

Three) I’ve spent some time with someone, who, while not in the ultra-competitive world that I’ve spent way too much time in now, is still in a pretty high pressure office environment. And she’s taught me that – forget the family v. career debate – but that there’s multiple ways to be productive in your career in your early 20’s. Just because someone isn’t pulling as many hours as you are, it could just mean that they are doing something else outside of work to improve themselves. And it’s probably more efficient that you are doing…