By Professor Michelle Ryan.  Originally published in The Guardian.

Many women are just as ambitious as men when they begin their careers, but become so wearied by fighting against multiple structural and experiential barriers to their success that this ambition often wanes.

This is one of the findings made by Michelle Ryan, a professor of social and organisational psychology at the University of Exeter in the UK, in her research into why women are under-represented in leadership roles and report lower ambition.

Ryan has returned to Australia to deliver a lecture on Thursday evening at the Australian National University in Canberra, where she graduated with a PhD in psychology in 2004.

“If you do surveys and about the proportion of men and women aiming for the top, you can see differences in their levels of ambition,” Ryan told Guardian Australia.

“But they don’t start off that way. We’ve done the surveys for numerous professions, and whether it’s police officers, surgical trainees, or women in science, men and women have absolutely equal levels of ambition and want to make it to top in equal numbers.


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