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As an Oscar-winning actress and owner of her production and media company, working mom Reese Witherspoon is one ambitious woman, but ambition isn't something she just wants to keep to herself. In an essay for the October issue of Glamour, she encourages all women to pursue great things, talks about the changes she's seen in women's representation in the film industry, and offers up some wise advice when dealing with men who don't support your dreams.
In the essay, the mom of three to Ava, 17, and Deacon, 13, with ex Ryan Phillippe, and Tennessee, 4, with husband Jim Toth, explains how there were so few speaking parts for women 15 years ago when she started auditioning for movies in L.A.—and barely any women in the crew compared to today. But even though women are making strides in film, in terms of roles and directing, writing and producing jobs, there's still work to be done in making sure there are more female characters onscreen, including women of color, and more opportunities to tell women's stories.
Reese played a role in helping change come about in film by creating her own production company Pacific Standard five years ago to make more roles for women onscreen and behind the scenes. "I think it’s worth noting, I self-funded my production company for years. I think there’s this fallacy that because I’ve been an actor, people are going to hand me stuff. Nobody hands me anything. I’ll wake up earlier; I’ll stay up later. I will put my money where my mouth is ..." she says. And it's paid off. “I can tell that I’m considered a player [as a producer] now because of the respect I get from studio heads. They call me back quicker.”
And if you're dealing with men in your life who don't support you or just can't deal with your pursuit of better things, Reese suggests getting away from them really quickly. Referring to a Harvard study that found that single female MBA students actually downplayed their career aspirations in front of their male peers because they were afraid it would make them seem like they weren't marriage material, Reese writes, "Run away from a man who can’t handle your ambition. Run. So many men think ambition is awesome and sexy!" She also mentions that whether you're at work, in a relationship or in a friendship, "there’s no point toiling away and wasting your ambition on people who don’t value your strengths."
Two people who certainly value her strengths are her teens, Ava and Deacon. "They will pull me aside and say, 'I’m really proud of you, Mom.' It means a lot to me to have two kids who support my ambition to change perceptions of women," she writes. "As moms, we have a unique opportunity to keep changing this attitude that ambition is an ugly quality in women. That it makes you unlikeable. What is likable anyway? I’m allergic to that word. We have to do our part to change the idea that a woman with passion and ambition is out only for herself."
This article originally appeared on WorkingMother.com.