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Women in Life Sciences: Ambitious and Ready to Lead!

Analysis of Ambition Among Young Professionals in the life sciences: A Gender Perspective

A recent study conducted at BCF Career Event has provided fresh insights into the concept of ambition among young professionals, uncovering subtle gender differences in their career aspirations and motivations.

The study, which involved interviews with 35 individuals aged between 21 and 34, revealed that the majority of respondents considered themselves moderately or very ambitious. Interestingly, the female respondents were slightly over-represented in the "very ambitious" category, challenging traditional assumptions that women then express less ambition than men.

When asked about their career goals, participants frequently expressed general desires, such as making a difference and engaging in challenging/fun work. Notably, there were no significant differences between men and women in terms of their motivations. Similar percentages of men and women (roughly a third) strive for leadership positions, and there is no noticeable difference in the type or level of leadership positions they describe. This suggests that young professionals in life sciences, regardless of gender, share similar overarching aspirations when it comes to their careers.

However, the study did identify subtle variations in how men and women look at their career goals. Some women spontaneously expressed their concern that at some point in the future, they will be faced with the dilemma of how to balance their wish to start a family with their career goals. None of the men mentioned this. In contrast, men more often expressed aspirations for entrepreneurship (own start-up), but it has to be noted that this was merely an older age group that was not represented amongst the female interviewees.

‘Women often hear that it is their own fault if they do not progress in their career. They hear that they are too humble, not visible enough, and do not express their ambition often and clearly enough’ says Vera Gelissen, who conducted the research. ‘Surely from the results of my interview the females appear as slightly more ambitious and equally articulate about their career goals’.

Vera Gelissen continues ‘So now it is up to organisations to ensure that they give their female leadership talent the opportunity to develop leadership skills early in their careers, and for females to actively ask for these opportunities. Otherwise, they will lose out when competing with the males for the talent pipeline that feeds the management positions. And in all this they have to perform a balancing act: be very clear about their ambitions and communicate about this proactively, but beware of the effect that assertive behaviour by women can be dismissed as too aggressive or too competitive.’

You can read the full article here.

For further information about the study or to access the full research findings, please contact Vera Gelissen at

Written by Vera Gelissen

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