“The f**king debate is all over”, Kevin Roberts, ex-chairman of global advertising agency Saatchi & Saatchi, told Business Insider last Saturday.
Yes, that’s right. The fight for gender equality in the workforce is over. According to Roberts women have a different type of ambition than men – “circular ambition” – and they don’t actually want the top jobs.
(He’s now ex-chairman because of these comments. But he’s not the only one who believes them to be true.)
I’d never heard of circular ambition but, apparently, it’s to be blamed for a lot of things. Like the fact women hold only 12% of the world’s board seats. Or that, in Roberts’ industry specifically, only 11.5% of creative director positions are held by females.
What’s needed, apparently, to land that comfy leather boardroom chair is “vertical ambition”.
I’d never heard of this either. But vertical ambition is a ‘take no prisoners’ approach. It’s driven by the want for wealth, power, fame. It’s a type of ambition that was created by old, white, angry men, and is still celebrated and promoted-to-executive-level-positions by the old, white, angry men.
Vertical ambition sounds awful.
Circular ambition, in comparison, is a much more holistic pathway. Less dedicated to landing the top job, more focused on the ‘meaningful’ things in life. As Roberts explains.
“Women’s ambition is not a vertical ambition, it’s this intrinsic, circular ambition to be happy,” he told Business Insider. “So they say: ‘We are not judging ourselves by those standards that you idiotic dinosaur-like men judge yourself by’. I don’t think [the lack of women in leadership roles] is a problem. I’m just not worried about it because they are very happy, they’re very successful, and doing great work. I can’t talk about sexual discrimination because we’ve never had that problem, thank goodness.”
Some bosses just let us do our jobs. Other bosses make work a nightmare. Post continues below video.
There are several things that are right about this statement.
Yes, women do deliver great work.
No, women don’t judge ourselves by the same standards as men.
Our standards are often higher, more complex, because our pathway to success is not straight and uncluttered like a male’s might be. Our pathway is held to different expectations by society; it’s diverted by child bearing; challenged by less pay; slowed by the fact we have to prove our value is more than our cleavage and cute smile.
Women judge themselves constantly. We judge the way we work and perform; the way we are a partner; the way we are a mother. We don’t judge ourselves by the same standards as men. We can’t afford to.