It’s embarrassing to admit, but my work is part of who I am. There, I said it. I’ve always known what I wanted to do and have refused to listen to anyone that tried to tell me otherwise or guide me elsewhere (my dad and dentistry, FYI). I’ve always been ambitious, but I’m wondering whether it’s enough.
My newfound insecurity comes at a time when we’re ultra focused on our careers. We lean in, become ‘girl bosses’ (a phrase I’d happily set on fire and watch burn); we add a side hustle onto our everyday one; we even turn ourselves into personal brands and sell that, too.
And that’s great. Only 22% of women in the UK occupy senior leadership roles in 2018 and women hold a mere 32% of the seats in the House of Commons. More women are working than ever before, yet we’re still being paid less to do so. We’re not there yet and might not get there at all for another 217 years, according to the World Economic Forum. We need more women in prominent, powerful roles and it’s a sign of our more feminist times that we’re finally working towards this.
But what happens if you have other priorities? Do you have to lean in to be considered a ‘strong, independent woman’?
As Ella, a marketing executive, said, “It’s drilled into young people, especially uni grads, that your career should be your number one focus, the be all and end all.”
Just as I’ve always known I want to be a writer, I’ve also known I don’t want to take a place among the few female editors of national newspapers or run a magazine. I’m freelance; returning to an office can seem a bit much. Am I letting down the side by not striving for more? I don’t think so. When did we decide empowerment comes only after you’ve nabbed a place on a Forbes list? We shouldn’t feel the need to reach arbitrary goals we didn’t set for fear of judgement as failures if we don’t.
In fact, prioritising ourselves might be healthier, as a recent study by Gallup suggested that around seven in 10 millennials might experience some form of career burnout.
Yet, admitting that you’re not driven by a need to get to the top can feel akin to admitting that you’re not measuring up, even – dare I say it – lazy.