The ‘Big Little Lies’ star says women should be ambitious in the workplace
Reese Witherspoon thinks there’s a little Tracy Flick in all of us.
The actress, producer and entrepreneur penned an essay for Glamour urging the need for people to change the way they perceive ambitious women.
“What the heck is wrong with being ambitious? I have been ambitious all my life. In fact, I vividly remember telling my third-grade teacher that I wanted to be the first female president of the United States,” she wrote, defining ambition simply as “a drive inside of you.”
The 41-year-old actress sited a Columbia University study that found women with ambitious traits seemed selfish and less worthy of being hired than a man with the same traits. And throughout the essay, Witherspoon channeled the very openly — and at times, ruthlessly — ambitious character Tracy Flick she portrayed in the 1999 movie “Election” about a teacher’s pet and careerist who dared to aim high to win school election, and stopped at nothing to achieve success.
“If you’re in corporate America, keep working hard to bust through the glass ceiling. If you want our voices to be represented in government—and I think we’re all getting behind that idea now—encourage women to run and help them with their campaigns. If you are one of those people who has that little voice in the back of her mind saying, ‘Maybe I could do [fill in the blank],’ don’t tell it to be quiet. Give it a little room to grow, and try to find an environment it can grow in,” she wrote.
The “Big Little Lies” star went on to list the achievements of some of her powerhouse female colleagues in Hollywood, like Felicity Jones playing the protagonist in “Rogue One,” a film that made over $1 billion at the global box office; and Patty Jenkins and Gal Gadot in the mega hit “Wonder Woman,” which made more than $700 million worldwide.
Outside of Hollywood, the “Home Again” star preached that parents play a vital part in encouraging kids to want more from themselves.
“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 likeable anyway?” she questioned.
“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. So talk to your kids about ambition as a positive trait in men and women.”
While simultaneously becoming America’s Sweetheart in Rom-Coms like “Sweet Home Alabama,” and “Legally Blonde,” Witherspoon managed to carve out a business plan. She started her own production company in 2012, founded her own clothing company Draper and James in Nashville, and has starred in, and produced, films like “Wild.” Despite being a triple threat in Hollywood, she still feels there’s a double standard in her industry.
“The stakes are also much higher for stories about women. There is a lot of pressure to generate a huge profit. When any movie with a group of women starring in it doesn’t make heaps of money, the studio takeaway is that those types of films ‘aren’t working,’” she wrote.
Having her own production company has allowed her to create more roles for women onscreen and behind the scenes. Witherspoon acknowledged a few ambitious females she’s worked, noting that her upcoming films “Home Again” and “A Wrinkle In Time,” were both written and directed by women. And her wildly popular HBO show “Big Little Lies” featured five actress who were 25 to 50 years old. She noted that 8.5 million people on average watched each episode.
“All we can do to create change is work hard,” she urged.
“That’s my advice: Just do what you do well.”
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