Open Letter: Half of Humanity

Open Letter: Half of Humanity

The world is changing. The world as we knew it just 10 years ago has been turned upside down. Large-scale social movements such as #MeToo and Black Lives Matter, the entry onto the job market of a new generation – more socially aware than ever –, and the brutal onslaught of a pandemic on the world, have all forced us to shine a spotlight on issues of inequality that have shaped social and professional spheres for far too long. We’ve had no choice but to reconsider the ways we behave, think, and work.

Yes, the world has changed a lot. But it’s still not enough.

Despite ever-more-eloquent speeches promoting gender equity, despite tenuous progress in terms of equality, the current situation is rather dismal for women. While McKinsey’s well-known annual report Women in the Workplace reveals gains in the representation of women at every level over the past five years, this representation remains decidedly inadequate. After all, according to numerous sources, we are still many years away from gender equality becoming a reality. 

135.6 years
This past March, the World Economic Forum announced that it was adding 36 years to the pre-pandemic timeframe for reaching gender equality.

While any form of progress against inequality should be highlighted (and celebrated) – even more so in the current context – McKinsey emphasizes a widely-felt societal phenomenon: women are burnt out.

Weary of coming up against a glass ceiling that refuses to budge, drowning in responsibilities, disillusioned by a flagrant lack of opportunities and, especially, recognition, women see their ambition crumble.

Deciders, directors, business and political leaders, we ask you this important question: do we, as a society, really have the luxury of depriving ourselves of the talent, intelligence, and ambition of half of humanity?

No more waiting

The A Effect was founded on the premise that a fairer, more equitable and equal world required more female representation. More ambitious women at every level, and especially, more women decision-makers.

For us, it is an incalculable loss every time a woman walks away from her professional aspirations. A step backward is a setback for us all. Faced with the current situation, we feel a greater sense of urgency than ever to take a stand and act.

But to truly help, support, and advise, we first needed to understand.

Making no claim whatsoever of knowing everything about ambitious women, we felt it was essential to return to the source: ambition. In light of ongoing societal changes and the weariness acutely felt by far too many women, we wanted a clearer understanding of how this fundamental driving force had evolved. And more importantly, we wanted a better grasp of what ambitious women need to break the glass ceiling.   

Motivated by our commitment to helping all women use their talent and assisting in the removal of the obstacles that arise along the way, we analyzed recent scholarly writings and reviewed our own data. The result: we discovered powerful, holistic female ambition imbued with an immense desire to contribute to something great. More importantly, we discovered ambition that deserved to be bolstered by specific foundations… because the obstructions are still far too great in size and number.

Therefore, if we had to summarize our findings in one broad definition that would allow us to better comprehend the essence of female ambition, we would say this: Ambition is the energy that enables us to reach the top of our own A-list, the energy we use to live up to our potential. Ambition comes from within. It is rooted in strong confidence and solid values, but it can’t exist in isolation; it is strengthened and elevated thanks to the contributions of those around us, those who believe in us. Our network and allies.

Have self-confidence, put our values at the centre, and, most of all, have support. Your support. How much longer will women be forced to wait?

The proof that (female) ambition changes the equation is already out there. Ambition propels women within organizations and fosters greater diversity. A survey on ambition done by Léger for The A Effect (whose results were made public in 2020) showed that female ambition promotes better engagement within ambitious women’s teams and by ambitious women themselves, a greater capacity for innovation and risk-taking, better collaboration between teams, and better talent retention. But it doesn’t stop there.

Female ambition changes the equation, and it’s also the first step toward a world where there’s room for all kinds of diversity. If we fail to make way for women, who represent half the world population, how do we think we’ll deal with any other kind of inequity?

To see female ambition at long last fostering collective ambition, women need you. They need to be encouraged and propelled by a support network that believes in them, by friends and colleagues who help them, and by supervisors with a vested interest who will stand by them. Most of all, women need leaders who see beyond diversity objectives and managers who are all in for inclusion. They need organizations that will make true equality possible by establishing transparent processes; that will promote greater openness, by addressing unconscious biases and condemning all forms of sexism and microaggressions; and that will establish an engaging workplace culture, where every woman has a real opportunity to contribute.

At The A Effect, we are doing everything in our power to inform, equip, and inspire women so they can rise up, propel their ambition, and enrich themselves and for society as a whole. But they can’t carry the weight of obstacles that don’t belong to them.

Yes, we describe ourselves as “feminist idealists”, but this doesn’t mean our determination to accelerate the march toward equity is utopian.

This is why The A Effect team will be rolling out multiple initiatives in the coming months that put female ambition at the centre. Since the success of the companies of today and tomorrow depends on our shared ability to ensure that female ambition propels collective ambition, we are offering you:

– A large portfolio revisiting female ambition, its foundations, its hindrances, its potential. Consult it now!
– The findings of a major study on women’s ambition and careers, to be revealed to you in the coming months.
– A free web conference this winter for our community of ambitious women –numbering more than 90,000!
– A workshop about best practices in terms of diversity and inclusion for our corporate partners.
– A new newsletter for our community of deciders.

Are you as committed as we are to making way for half of humanity?

The A Effect team

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Author profile

Catherine Bergeron


As a writer for over 15 years, Catherine Bergeron has contributed to many publications. She loves finding the right words to inspire, help, and inform by sharing truths, great and small.