The Ambition Interviews

About a year and a half ago I was in spin class, where I think all my great thoughts, and I began reflecting back on my life.  I’d turned 41 earlier that year, which prompted a wave of self-reflection, some mild panic, appreciation for all I have in my life, and resentment and self-loathing for all the things I thought I would have accomplished by now and haven’t.

As I thought back over my 20-ish years of adulthood, I realized that I’d been utterly unprepared to make the decisions that confronted me along the way.  I’d chosen a spouse, decided to have children, picked a few different careers, all without any real, true knowledge about what the likely outcomes would be.  I had no idea, for example, that wanting to be a full time writer and wanting to live in one of the most expensive real estate markets in the country wouldn’t make for a harmonious result.  I didn’t realize how much having children would impact my career and how I defined success.  And most of all it never occurred to me the simple act of being an ambitious female would make my road infinitely more complex.

Was it just me who had been blindsided by … just how hard it all feels sometimes?  I decided to reach out to some of my college friends to find out if they felt the same way.  I wasn’t in touch with that many of them, but I contacted two whom I’d been closest to in college, and asked them about their stories.  Those conversations led to more conversations, and the end result was that one of those friends (journalist Elizabeth Wallace) decided to team up with me to collect interviews with everyone who had been in our sorority’s graduating class (Northwestern ’93).  We decided to limit our subjects this way for a range of reasons – we wanted to limit our interviews to a specific demographic, we didn’t want to interview all women everywhere, we were particularly interested in women who were high-achieving and ambitious enough to go to an elite university, and we also found that interviewing women whom we’d known when they were 18 years old provided an excellent context for what they told us about their lives.

Which brings me to this: today, those first few tentative conversations are The Ambition Interviews.  The site launched today, and will document our process as we continue to interview our subjects and gather data.  We’re recording audio for the interviews, and our first step will be to create short animated clips on topics that have had an impact on many of our subjects.  After that, we’ll be writing articles that look at these topics in depth.

The Ambition Interviews are the stories behind the endless news headlines about the lack of women CEOs, lack of women in tech, lack of women in politics.  They capture what women really feel about work life balance, childcare, motherhood, their spouses, their careers, and, ultimately, their ambitions.