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The origin of the word ambitious means to have a strong desire for success or achievement. While this word is used positively to describe men, women rarely describe themselves as being ambitious and view it as a negative description. The term ambitious parallels with wanting to succeed. Women want to succeed but do not want the association of being viewed as less feminine. Because of gender stereotypes, a woman is labeled as the care taker, mother and nurturer. Whereas the man is viewed as the breadwinner, intelligent and responsible. If a woman wants to work and achieve more she is then labeled as ambitious. When described as ambitious, women are also perceived to be too eager or pushy. The use of the word ambitious is almost to say, “it’s very likely that you will not succeed” and that “it is too far out of reach.” When using the word ambitious it is important to understand how far women have come. Women have always had restricted access to positions of power and privilege and have faced a lot of pushback when entering high powered careers. Women have been socialized to believe that if they were to fail, there is no second chance.


While ambitious is not a negative word per se, the context in which it is used, can be. We recommend to avoid the use of the word ambitious in a pejorative way, because being ambitious is not negative.

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