89% of university-educated women in India believe it is important to have ambitions

American Express in partnership with The New York Women’s Foundation commissioned Ambitious Insights- a survey report, under which university-educated, full time working women (not affiliated with American Express) across the U.S., Australia, Canada, France, Germany, India, Italy, Japan, Mexico, and U.K were asked about their relationship with ‘Ambition’- both professional and personal. The report launched ahead of The International Women’s Day, carries some interesting insights like:

  • 89% of Indian working women believe, that it is important to have ambitions or a strong desire to achieve success in life as compared to the global average of 59%.
  • Commitment to achieving personal ambitions such as those related to parenting, relationships or personal health was highest in India (91%) as compared to the global average of 68%.
  • Indian women (65%) are also most likely to feel that they must work harder than their male counterparts to gain career recognition.
  • Women in India (70%) followed by Germany (35%) and the U.S. (33%) are most likely to feel proud in calling themselves ambitious. 

Commenting on the report, Mr. Manoj Adlakha, Senior Vice President and Chief Executive Officer (CEO) – American Express Banking Corp India said, “The Ambitious Insights study throws light on the fact that ambition is not a simple thing. It exists across many dimensions- successful careers, financial independence and skills, while also being healthy, being great parents and having strong personal relationships.”

Talking specifically about India, he further added, “I feel that women in India have always been driven, and the report attests, that given a chance, they have the confidence to nurture their ambitions and lead the world by setting an example. We are proud to say that, at American Express, we have various initiatives to ensure equal opportunities for all our colleagues. And this study demonstrates the power of vocal leadership, a dedicated community and collective ambition on women’s overall advancement.” 

EXCERPTS FROM THE STUDY 

Perceptions of Ambition

Across all markets surveyed, most women do not call themselves ‘ambitious’ and are divided about whether being called ambitious in the workplace is positive.

  • Globally, majority of women consider themselves to be ambitious, however only three in ten (31%) women say they are proud to call themselves “ambitious.”
  • Indian women led the findings on the importance of having ambition (89%, very important) followed by Mexico (82%) and the U.S. (68%) whereas the importance of having ambitions in life is significantly lower in France (41%, very important) and Japan (28%).
  • Having a successful career received the highest importance ratings in India (78%), very important), Mexico (69%) and the U.S. (44%) and was significantly lower in Japan (17%).

Putting Personal Ambitions Above Professional

  • Being healthy is rated very important by two-thirds of the women surveyed overall (65%), while acquiring wealth, a traditional outcome of ambition, is at the bottom of the list with only 30% rating it as very important.
  • Overall, the women surveyed were more likely to be committed to doing whatever it takes to achieve personal ambitions (68%) such as those related to parenting, relationships or personal health than external ambitions (53%) such as career, education and wealth.

Receiving Recognition

Overall, women have relatively low expectations for being recognized for successes in their career or personal lives

  • Overall, more women agree that they receive recognition for success in their personal life (34%) than in their work life (29%).
  • Three-in-ten women strongly agree that they have to work harder than their male peers to get recognition at work (31%). Women in India (65%), Mexico (38%), Germany (34%) and Italy (33%) are most likely to feel this way.

The Confidence Gap

While women may be sure of the importance of having ambitions, their confidence in being able to achieve those ambitions, by comparison, is significantly lower– particularly when it comes to personal ambitions.

  • 40% said it is very important to have ambitions for a successful career and 32% are very confident that they will be able to achieve that success
  • Women in India (68%, very confident) and Mexico (59%) are the most confident in being able to achieve their career ambitions
  • When it comes to achieving personal ambitions, women in India, Mexico and Germany are more confident, especially when it comes to being as healthy as possible and fulfilling life experiences.

Achieving Career Ambitions

The women surveyed accept personal responsibility for achieving professional goals.

  • Overall, women view their own confidence and determination (31%) as the most important factor for staying on track to achieve their career ambitions followed by family support (21%), professional recognition (10%) and supportive leaders (10%).
  • Receiving professional recognition is of highest importance in India (16%), but still ranks behind self-confidence (31%) and family support (28%).

Confidence in the workplace

While having self-confidence is viewed as most important for women to achieve career ambitions, they may not act as confident as they feel at the workplace.

  • Confidence in having the skills and qualifications necessary to be effective in performing their job is highest among women in Mexico (75%), India (71%) and the U.S. (51%)
  • Women in India (69%), Mexico (60%), Italy (48%) are most likely to stand their ground on an issue at work and to seek leadership opportunities as well (India, 66%; Mexico, 62%; Italy, 34%)

Personal Support

Family support was identified as the second most important factor, after self-confidence, in staying on track for achieving career goals – further reinforcing the connection between women’s personal and professional lives, internationally.

  • Overall, three-in-ten (28%) women strongly agree that to make progress toward achieving their career ambitions, they must make significant sacrifices in their personal life.

Women as Career Advocates

While globally women see value in having a career advocate, that role is not necessarily being fulfilled.

  • Women in India (63%), Italy, Mexico and the U.S. (32%, each) are most likely to have advocated for someone else to help them in their career
  • Women in India (62%), Mexico (35%) and Germany (27%) are most likely to have had someone advocate for them and help them in their career. 

Methodology

Ambitious Insights is a study commissioned by American Express, in partnership with The New York Women’s Foundation, based on a sample of 3,026 women (not affiliated with American Express) ages 21-64 with a university degree or higher and employed full time in the following markets: U.S., Australia, Canada, France, Germany, India, Italy, Japan, Mexico, and U.K. Completed interviews were weighted by age to ensure reliable and accurate representation of the individual market populations. The anonymous survey was conducted using an online panel January 10-16, 2020.

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